Steamboat Springs A cold front that moved through Northwest Colorado Tuesday brought rain and cooler temperatures but no reprieve to the 30,000-acre fire burning in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs.
"This helps," fire information officer Punky Moore said. "This does not put the fires out."
The moisture can be deceiving, she said.
People might look at the showers and think the rain is dousing the flames, when it is barely scratching the surface of the fire, Moore said. The rains, however, should slow down fire activity enough to give fire crews some time to get after the blaze, she said.
A Type I Incident Management Team took over responsibility of the fire which has been dubbed the Mount Zirkel Complex fire this morning. More than 330 people have been assigned to the fire. The transition from a Type II to a Type I fire means the blaze merits resources and strategies that cannot be met by a Type II team.
The drizzling rain did nothing to lessen the significance of the fire's new ranking, either.
Firefighters will work away at the fire with just as much fervor.
"You can't get complacent," Moore said.
Forest Service officials were expecting today's moisture and expect additional showers Wednesday and Thursday. But moisture, higher humidity and lower temperatures brought on by the rainfall could easily disappear this afternoon under wind gusts of up to 25 mph.
"That tends to dry out the forest," Moore said.
The rain helped to clear out some of the smoke that has blanketed Steamboat Springs over the last few days.
Although estimates of the size of the Mount Zirkel Complex remain at 30,000 acres, Forest Service officials hope to do more accurate mapping of burn area when the skies clear.
No structures have been destroyed in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness. The Mount Zirkel Complex fire is actually comprised of two fires the Hinman and Burn Ridge fires that officials believe may merge in the coming days.
About 30 private residences and five commercial properties along Seedhouse Road near the southern edge of the Hinman fire are threatened, but fire crews have plans in place to prevent the fire from heading further south.
Firefighters could potentially burn brush and trees along the northern edge of Seedhouse Road to eliminate fuels that lie in the predicted path of the fire.
By using fire to fight fire, firefighters cripple the blaze's advance by leaving it nothing to burn.
Containment lines constructed by fire crews at the western end of the Burn Ridge fire continue to hold, but the blaze has moved closer to private land and properties in North Park and threatened several ranches, crops and outbuildings.
The Burn Ridge fire crossed over the Continental Divide and is now burning on both sides of the Divide.
The Mount Zirkel Complex is 5 percent contained. Seedhouse Road and trails in the area remain closed, but businesses along the road are still open for business.
Fire officials intend to hold the western ends of both fires and suppress the blaze where it moves beyond the wilderness boundaries and threatens private property.
Much of the fire is still burning sections of blowdown that pose too many risks to firefighters' safety.
The Green Creek fire 15 miles southeast of Steamboat Springs is now 46 percent contained. More accurate mapping put the size of the blaze at 4,400 acres in the Sarvis Creek Wilderness. No structures have been destroyed, but 13 residences, one commercial property and 18 outbuildings are threatened by the fire. Although the fire is moving slowly, the potential for growth still exists.
More than 100 people have been assigned to the blaze, which is estimated to have cost almost $200,000. No cost estimates are available yet for the Mount Zirkel Complex.
Forest Service Road 100 remains closed from Red Dirt Reservoir to the junction at U.S. 40 because of the Greek Creek fire.
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