Wildfires to benefit bighorn sheep habitat

Authorities have decided to manage rather than try to extinguish two small wildfires started by lightning Saturday north of New Castle on the White River National Forest.

The Meadow Creek and Deep Creek Point fires are burning in fir and oak brush in the upper reaches of Main Elk Creek, and aren’t threatening structures.

“Because of their location and the fuel type, we can use these fires to improve habitat for bighorn sheep,” Tom Matza, range specialist for the Rifle Ranger District, said in a news release. “We will use natural barriers such as rock outcroppings and vegetation patterns to contain the fires.”

Firefighters from the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit (UCR) responded to the fires Monday. Smoke jumpers based in Grand Junction were then called out due to the steep, rocky terrain and difficult access.

The Meadow Creek Fire was 1.5 to 2 acres in size Wednesday morning and the Deep Creek Fire was about a tenth of an acre. Four smokejumpers were on the scene.

Authorities say they are prepared to take more aggressive action if conditions change. Meanwhile, smoke may be visible from New Castle to Rifle.

Information about wildfire activity under the Upper Colorado River unit’s jurisdiction may be obtained by calling 970-244-3104.



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