Wind gusts Thursday propelled the Cow Creek Fire, burning in remote Ouray County on U.S. Forest Service-managed lands, to about 235 acres, USFS spokesperson Kim Phillips told the Daily Press Thursday afternoon.
Its cause has not been established.
No containment had been achieved as of Thursday afternoon, when another, smaller fire sprouted on the Grand Mesa near Young’s Creek. That fire was put at 16 acres Thursday afternoon; an update was not available.
The Cow Creek Fire is burning in mixed conifer in the Uncompahgre Wilderness area of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests.
According to the USFS, a Type 3 incident management team is tackling the fire. Resources include a helicopter and engine based in Montrose, through the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.
With dry conditions heavily in play, the fire clogged area skies with smoke and prompted multiple closures that are affecting hunting in the burn area.
As of Thursday evening, closures were in place for:
Owl Creek Pass (Forest Service Road 858) from the forest boundary up to Owl Creek Pass; the West Fork Road (FSR 860) from the intersection with Owl Creek Road to the Wetterhorn Trailhead,and Cow Creek Road (FSR 857).
Several Forest Service Trails (FST) are also included in the restricted area, including: Wetterhorn Basin Trail (FST 226), Stealey Mountain South Trail (FST 258), Courthouse Trail (FST 218), Stealey Mountain North Trail (FST 219), Old Owl Creek Trail (FST 236), Cow Creek Trail (FST 220), Spalding Park Trail (FST 237), FST 219.1B, FST 236.1B, FST 236.1A, and FST 144.
The closure was implemented for public health and safety.
Hunters in the closure area, which includes part of Game Management Unit 65, were being encouraged to relocate their camps immediately and to direct questions to Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 970-252-6000.
“There’s going to be some hunters displaced, no doubt,” CPW Area Wildlife Manager Renzo Del Piccolo said Thursday. “This area has the majority of ATV routes for that unit, so hunters who plan on using those will definitely have to find new places to go.”
He said hunters need to consult GMUG maps to ensure they are not in restricted areas.
The fire has not closed all hunting opportunities.
“There’s still plenty of huntable areas in the unit they can still access and that have been productive in the past,” Del Piccolo said.
Although as of Thursday, no fire restrictions were in place, people still need to use extreme caution.
“We want to remind people to be very careful with fires. Currently, there are no restrictions, but prudence would be that you would be very careful and completely extinguish fires before leaving, and at night,” Del Piccolo said.
The USFS also reminds the public not to fly unmanned aircraft systems (drones) in the fire area and it perimeter. Drones interfere with radio communications between air resources and ground crews; for safety reasons, fire-fighting planes will be grounded if drones are in the area. It is illegal to fly drones near active wildfires.
Friday’s forecast indicates moisture could be on the way; scattered showers were forecasted. The forecast also called for moderate, westerly winds with afternoon gusts, the USFS said.
Air quality information can be found at colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wood-smoke-and-health.
Fire behavior: Group tree torching and crown runs
Total personnel: 64
Jurisdiction: USFS – GMUG National Forests
Location: 9 miles east of Ridgway, south of Chimney Rock and Courthouse Mountain
Start Date: Oct. 16