Thursday, August 14, 2003
A wildfire in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness jumped from 35 to 200 acres Thursday and had firefighters standing watch over a cabin near Diamond Park.
Relatively low humidity and northeast winds Thursday afternoon caused the fire to grow rapidly in steep, rugged terrain where dry, beetle-killed trees made it easier for the fire to spread.
Thursday night, the fire was about three miles inside the wilderness boundary near Diamond Park. The closest homes are on Seedhouse Road, about six miles away.
As a safety precaution, the U.S. Forest Service has closed the northern part of the Zirkel Wilderness to the public.
At about 6 p.m. Thursday, the North Routt Fire Protection District was called to the Diamond Park area to help protect the Corbett cabin, which sits on private property at the north end of Diamond Park, Routt County Sheriff John Warner said.
As of Thursday night, the fire had not reached the Corbett cabin and the North Routt crew planned to go home for the night and return this morning. Warner said winds that earlier blew the fire toward the cabin changed direction, shifting the fire away from the structure.
The Hinman fire threatened the same cabin last year, Warner said.
The Sawtooth fire was ignited by a lightning strike July 29. On Monday, it jumped from a few acres to 30. Strong afternoon winds Thursday caused the fire to grow again.
The U.S. Forest Service plans to fly over the fire today before deciding the best way to fight it, Forest Service spokeswoman Diann Ritschard said.
The fire caused plumes of smoke Thursday that were easily visible from Steamboat Springs. Because it is burning in a beetle-kill area, Ritschard said, the fire produces more smoke than usual.
Hot Shots, specialized firefighting teams, were on the ground Thursday, but Ritschard said that because the fire was torching, running and spotting, it was too dangerous for them to fight it.
The fire was burning groups of trees, moving quickly through the forest and jumping ahead to start other fires 100 to 150 feet in front of the main fire line.
"We have to be very, very careful. We just can't jump into these things because of the danger to the firefighters, especially fires in wilderness areas that are not threatening people's homes," Ritschard said.
The Forest Service has closed the Zirkel Wilderness to public use north of a line formed by Agnes Creek, Big Agnes Mountain, Mount Zirkel and the Fryingpan Basin Trail.
The closure also shuts down the Trail Creek Trail, the West Fork Trail, the Manzanares Trail, the Buffalo Ridge Trail, the Beaver Creek and Stump Park Trail and the Big Creek Trail.
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