Skipper Island fire forces closure

Burnt out trees and ash remain at Skipper Island on Friday afternoon. The island fire in Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area was started on April 19 by a man who was illegally camping in the area. The island will be closed throughout the summer.

The Skipper Island section of the Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area will be closed through the summer due to safety concerns after a wildfire charred nearly 230 acres of cottonwood trees, tamarisk and brush last month.

Kirk Oldham, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the area is too hazardous for visitors.

"This is going to be closed for at least a couple months," Oldham said. "We're hoping to reopen in the fall, but we will only reopen when we're assured the trees are relatively stable and there are no more burned roots that are smoldering."

Burned-out root systems can also cause caverns that people could fall into, Oldham said.

The Skipper Island fire was started on April 19 by a man who was illegally camping in the area. That man, Mike "Marlow" Mewborn, told The Daily Sentinel he had set fire to toilet paper rather than bury it. Despite his efforts to put it out, the blaze quickly got away from him.

The fire burned for two days and forced power to be shut off to the town of Fruita and 2,100 homes in the Redlands, as well as multiple closures of Interstate 70.

Oldham said even after the area reopens to the public, full reclamation will take much longer.

The remaining 1,000 acres of Horsethief Canyon are still open to the public.

For more information, contact the regional Colorado Parks and Wildlife office at 255-6100.

Recommended for you