Helicopter ordered for Zirkel Wilderness fire | SteamboatToday.com

Helicopter ordered for Zirkel Wilderness fire

Fire perimeter

View the fire perimeter here. (Requires Google Earth)

— After another air reconnaissance flight Wednesday, the fire burning in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area was estimated to be about 6 acres, 2 acres larger than the first estimate.

“From what they saw during the flight, it wasn’t spreading,” Routt National Forest spokesman Aaron Voos said.

The fire was discovered Tuesday afternoon by a U.S. Forest Service employee and is burning about 1 mile south of the Three Island Lake trailhead along the south fork of the Elk River in heavy timber, including beetle-killed lodgepole pine trees. It was suspected lightning caused the fire.

The local Storm Peak Module firefighting crew is monitoring the fire from a distance.

“It’s in some just nasty stuff, really steep slopes, and we’re not going to put firefighters in there,” Voos said.

Voos said a smoke plume was visible from Walden on the other side of the Continental Divide on Tuesday. The smoke was not as thick Wednesday.

A helicopter geared to drop water was called in to help contain the fire, but it had not arrived as of late Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re still waiting on the helicopter that we ordered,” Voos said. “People are holding resources pretty tight to the vest with the fire danger.”

According to a news release, the Forest Service was using a “contain/confine” fire management strategy utilizing natural features to suppress the fire. Fires are sometimes left to burn in a wilderness area for the ultimate benefit of the forest. Voos said one concern with this fire was its proximity to the wilderness boundary.

Voos said there was not a high potential for the fire to spread. Rock surrounds three sides of the fire.

“If it moves up, it’s moving up into rock,” Voos said.

Temperatures for the remainder of this week are expected to top out in the mid- to high 70s in Steamboat Springs, about 17 miles to the southwest of the fire site. At higher elevations, Voos said conditions are drying out, but there still are places with snow in the timber.

People recreating in the area are being asked to leave. A closure is expected to be put into place Thursday for the Wolverine Basin, including the North Lake Trail, Forest Trail 1164.

The most memorable recent fire in the Zirkel Wilderness occurred in 2002. The Hinman and Burn Ridge fires started in July 2002 and joined to form the Zirkel Complex that burned 31,000 acres. The lightning-caused fires were not fully contained until October.

2nd fire fully contained

A second wildfire discovered Tuesday in the Routt National Forest was fully contained by Wednesday morning.

The fire spread to 12 acres about 20 miles north of Walden near the Wyoming border. A single-engine air tanker, a helicopter, five engines and a Jackson County bulldozer were being used to help fight the fire.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland