Wildfire area closed for safety; rifle hunters may be affected

In a move that could particularly affect hunters, the U.S. Forest Service has closed the area of the 257-acre Middle Elk Fire north of New Castle until further notice because of public safety concerns.

In a news release, Rio 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.

The interagency InciWeb wildfire information website 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.”

“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,” Coffin said of the closure.

Western Colorado’s first big-game rifle season begins Oct. 13.

Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said the closure is relatively small and in the southeast corner of a game management unit.

That leaves a vast area that a hunter with a license for the unit can access, he said.

As always, hunters also can ask for license refunds before the start of a season, he said.

The fire began Sept. 20 from a campfire abandoned by an unknown party. It remains 30 percent contained.

The fire occurred west of Meadow Lake Campground and the Buford-New Castle Road (Forest Road 245) near Hiner Spring. The campground and some forest roads east of the fire initially were closed because of the fire but are open now.

A skeleton crew is assigned to the fire. The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit is pursuing a confine/contain fire suppression strategy for 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.

Information on the closure, including a map, is at www.
inciweb.org. People with hunting questions related to the closure can call the Parks and Wildlife office in Meeker at 970-848-6090.


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