Friday, September 2, 2005
Rowan Heid knows that wildfires benefit ecosystems.
Heid, the ranch manager of Del's Triangle Three Ranch, watched as two large fires burned large amounts of land in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area in 2002. And although those fires affected the ranch's outfitting operations, he knew they would be positive for the forest.
"When we're operating in the forest, we have to expect these kinds of things to happen," Heid said.
The Wolverine Fire, which is small compared with the 2002 fires, continues to burn in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area. And it will continue to affect hunters and hikers this holiday weekend.
The fire is burning about 18 miles northwest of Steamboat Springs in an area popular with recreational users and hunters.
The fire has grown slightly -- from about 300 acres Thursday to 320 acres by Friday morning, said Diann Ritschard, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service -- but the area surrounding it remains closed during Labor Day weekend. That 38,400-acre closure includes the Gilpin and Gold Creek trails, Lost Ranger Trail and South Fork Elk River Road 443.
Areas outside of the closure likely will be used by more hunters and hikers than usual, Ritschard said.
The fire is being managed for fire-use, which means it is allowed to burn within predetermined parameters to benefit natural resources. Forest Service officials will continue to monitor the fire, and if it were to threaten homes or private property, suppression efforts would be taken, Ritschard said.
The Wolverine Fire is burning in an area where about 75 percent of trees are dead because of beetle infestations, so the blaze is expected to clear old vegetation and make way for new growth.
The fire is northwest of Wol--verine Basin and sandwiched between the areas burned during the Burn Ridge and Hinman fires of 2002.
It likely was sparked by frequent lightning strikes Aug. 25. On that day, 5,230 lightning strikes across Northwest Colo--rado were recorded by radar.
Meanwhile, Forest Service officials are reminding all backcountry users to be careful with fire, especially because drier, warm conditions are expected. There currently are no fire restrictions in place for Northwest Colorado.
Most important, Ritschard said, is that people never should leave a campfire unattended.
"Wind can take a tiny little spark and turn it into a fire quickly," Ritschard said.
People who use campfires should be sure the fire is out completely before leaving the site. That means mixing it with dirt, pouring water on it and feeling the coals with the backside of their hands to be sure the embers are not warm.
Fireworks are not allowed on public land at any time, Ritschard said, and they should be left at home.
Before going to an area of public land, people should find out whether there are fire restrictions and should consider bringing a camp stove. Backcountry users should not park a vehicle in dry weeds or tall grass, because hot catalytic converters easily can start fires.