Activity on the Middle Fork Fire burning north of Steamboat Springs has picked up over the past couple of days and started producing more smoke across the area.
The fire, which started on Sept. 6 and was caused by lightning, was 5,445 acres in size and 0% contained as of Thursday morning.
Fire managers said the fire has been most active on the southwest corner of the perimeter, where windy conditions and dry fuels have caused the fire to burn into a ridge on the southern side of the Middle Fork of Mad Creek.
Similar conditions – with temperatures around 70 degrees, relative humidity in the 10-15% range and winds of 4-8 miles per hour – are expected Thursday. But fire crews are expecting a front to arrive Friday that will bring gusting winds and possible scattered thunderstorms, which could increase fire behavior.
An Air Quality Health Advisory is in effect until at least 9 a.m. Friday for Routt and Jackson counties, where smoke was heavy Thursday morning and will shift with winds throughout the day before settling into the Mad Creek drainage area Friday morning.
The fire is burning through heavy timber and other fuels in the area, and the incident commander said Thursday that the team “expects the fire to burn until a persistent seasonal change of weather arrives.”
Firefighters are using a full suppression strategy and only working the parts of the fire where they can stay safe, as it is burning in steep and dense territory.
A Type 1 helicopter will continue water drops on parts of the fire, and crews believe that a burn scar to the north of the fire and the Continental Divide to its east will help limit its spread in those directions.
There were 95 personnel working the fire as of Thursday morning.
The National Forest is closed within the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, as are several trails in the area, but roads and trailheads remain open. For more information, click here.
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