Middle Fork Fire seeing increased activity, reaching natural barriers to the north and east
A large smoke plume from the Middle Fork Fire was visible over North Routt County on Sunday as fire activity returned.
Following several days of cold, wet weather, temperatures have warmed and conditions have become drier, stoking the Middle Fork Fire, located about 10 miles north of Steamboat Springs.
Torching of isolated individual and groups of trees was responsible for the heavy smoke Sunday and Monday. Increased fire behavior is due to it backing through heavy areas of dead and fallen timber.
Winds are pushing the fire toward natural barriers to its north and east, including an old burn scar and the Continental Divide. These limit the fire’s ability to spread in those directions, according to fire officials. The fire is now slowly backing to the west in isolated areas.
The fire’s size climbed a bit during the last day and is now at 4,795 acres, according to fire officials. Updated aerial mapping was scheduled for Monday.
Crews have completed structure assessments and are working on clearing trees that have fallen across roads and trails used by firefighters and the public around the fire area, according to an update Monday from the Middle Fork Fire incident team.
Fuel mitigation efforts also are ongoing around Rainbow Lake.
The fire is burning in Routt National Forest in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, about 10 miles north of Steamboat Springs. It was first reported Sept. 6, and its cause has been attributed to lightning.
Ninety-five total personnel are onsite with crews conducting fire mitigation work around Rainbow Lake Trail and continuing structure assessments in Jackson County.
Area closures remain in effect within the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area. The closure area follows the wilderness boundary on the east and west; on the south, it follows the wilderness boundary, the Continental Divide Trail and Newcomb Creek Trail; and on the north, it follows Lost Ranger Trail, the Continental Divide Trail south to Lost Ranger Peak, west to The Dome and down to the North Fork drainage.
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A fire being dubbed “Skull Creek” is active north of U.S Highway 40 about 70 miles west of Craig along the highway, or 60 miles west-southwest as the crow flies.