Closure order issued for wildfire area north of New Castle
In a move that could particularly affect hunters, the U.S. Forest Service has closed an area around the Middle Elk Fire north of New Castle until further notice due to public safety concerns.
In a news release, Blanco District Ranger Ken Coffin said the fire has been slowed by recent rains and cooler temperatures, but there remains a risk of falling trees and snags weakened by the fire.
“A change in the weather could bring the fire back to life further increasing the risk to the public,” he said.
The InciWeb wildfire information web site says a warming, drying trend is in the forecast, and if the fire became active again authorities “could be in a situation of having to find people and evacuate them from the area of the fire very quickly.”
Coffin said of the closure, “We know that this decision may be unpopular with some individual hunters who are planning to set up camps in the closed area. We are working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to make sure this information reaches as many people as possible before they arrive in the area so they can make alternative plans.”
Western Colorado’s first big-game rifle season begins Oct. 13.
The Middle Elk Fire began Sept. 20 due to a campfire abandoned by an unknown party. It grew to 257 acres before rain helped to check its further spread.
It remains 30 percent contained.
The fire occurred west of Meadow Lake Campground and the Buford-New Castle Road (Forest Road 245). The campground and some forest roads east of the fire initially were closed due to the fire but are open now. The closure order is in place west of Road 245 and north of the fire.
A skeleton crew is currently assigned to the fire. The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit is pursuing a confine/contain fire suppression strategy due to reasons such as the risk to firefighters from falling trees and snags. More resources will be assigned to the fire if it becomes more active.