Wildfire contained in Zirkel Wilderness

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— A small wildfire in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area was expected to be contained by this morning, a U.S. Forest Service official said.

The Seven Lakes Fire was burning on about two acres in the Big Creek drainage area northwest of Walden. U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Diann Ritschard said the fire probably started when a thunderstorm moved through the area midweek.

The area of the fire is defined by rocky, steep terrain. Ritschard said Forest Service wildland firefighters acted quickly to suppress the blaze because of the potential for it to grow rapidly in size.

"The reason they really tried to get at it quickly was because it could have gotten into some thick, beetle-killed trees and gone all the way to Wyoming," Ritschard said.

About 25 wildland firefighters battled the Seven Lakes Fire. Thirteen were on the ground, and about a dozen were part of the helicopter crew, Ritschard said. The helicopter scooped up water from Seven Lakes and used it to help control the blaze.

Because the fire is in a designated wilderness area - where no motorized vehicles or devices of any kind are allowed - crews had to get special permission to use chainsaws to help contain the fire.

"In wilderness (areas), we fight fire with minimum impact suppression tactics," she said. "This could have been a fairly critical fire."

Seven Lakes and the Big Creek drainage are remote areas, and the fire should have no impact on the use of campgrounds and trails in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area.

Ritschard reminded forest users that conditions are very dry and to use extreme caution.

"There are no fire restrictions in place, but if you don't need one, don't have one," she said. "If you must have one, make sure it is completely out before you leave it unattended."

Fireworks are prohibited in all national forests and grasslands.

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