Middle Fork fire grows to almost 8,000 acres | CraigDailyPress.com

Middle Fork fire grows to almost 8,000 acres

Kari Dequine Harden / Steamboat Pilot & Today
Crews observe the Middle Fork Fire on Sunday.
Courtesy Photo / U.S. Forest Service

Warm and windy conditions caused the Middle Fork Fire to grow by about 380 acres Saturday. The growth occurred primarily along the southern perimeter, according to the fire’s Type III incident team.

As of Sunday morning, the fire had scorched 7,897 acres.

The fire is burning in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area in the Routt National Forest, about 10 miles north of Steamboat Springs.

“Wind-thrown embers ignited numerous small spot fires outside the main body of the fire, most of which appear north and south of the fire perimeter,” according to the team.

The current increase in fire activity is occurring in heavy timber stands on the ridge north of South Fork drainage and Horse Thief Peak.

With much cooler temperatures on Sunday and higher humidity, the weather should temper the fire’s growth.

On Sunday, winds were forecast between 5 to 10 mph, gusting to 20 mph.

“Crews expect to see the fire creeping, smoldering and isolated and group torching events, mostly during windy conditions,” fire officials said.

With several cold fronts moving through, a freeze warning is in effect for Sunday night. A low temperature of 21 degrees is forecast for Sunday night in Steamboat and 23 degrees on Monday night, according to the National Weather Service. A high of 57 is forecast for Monday with light wind, climbing to a high of 71 on Tuesday. 

There is no precipitation in the forecast through next Sunday.

Closures related to the Middle Fork Fire are in effect, and visitors are asked to avoid that area for their safety and to allow firefighting crews to focus on fire operations.

While the goal is full suppression, the fire management team expects the Middle Fork Fire to remain active until the weather becomes persistently cool. About 89 personnel are working on the fire, with four helicopters and one fixed-wing airplane.

Stage 2 fire restrictions remain in effect for Routt and Jackson counties.

In the latest update, the fire management crew also thanked the community for donations of “sweets and treats,” but noted the Incident Command Post “can quickly become overwhelmed with goods we can’t consume.”

The team suggested donations can also be made to local fire districts, which protect and serve local communities year-round.

On Sunday, air quality advisories were issued for Jackson and Larimer counties but not Routt County.

There are no evacuations in effect. The cause of the fire is attributed to lightning. 

 To sign up for alerts, visit http://routtcountyalerts.com.

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