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Wildfire Scorches Forest Near Colorado's Wolf Creek Ski Area

Wolf Creek fire

UPDATE TUESDAY JUNE 25: Structure protection is now in place in the Wolf Creek area.

UPDATE SUNDAY JUNE 23: The Windy Pass wildfire, now included in the West Fork Complex, is remaining within the established indirect containment lines and there has been no damage to the Wolf Creek Ski Area, according to the latest InciWeb report. 

ORIGINAL STORY: A wildfire that began June 13 on the south side of Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado has grown to about 1,000 acres and within one-quarter mile of the resort’s boundaries.

As of Friday afternoon, the Windy Pass Fire, which is believed to be started by lightning, has not crossed over the Continental Divide to the ski area from its current location in a basin between Treasure Mountain and Alberta Peak.


The fire tripled in size on Thursday (June 20) to more than 700 acres, then added another 300 acres by Friday (June 21). All residences between Wolf Creek Pass and the town of South Fork have been ordered evacuated, and U.S. 160 was closed, as of Friday afternoon.


Fire management websites report that firefighters have been able to hold the fire within containment lines, aided by the sparse tundra vegetation at the 11,000-plus elevation.


A neighboring fire, the West Fork Fire, has grown to nearly 30,000 acres and forced the evacuation of the town of South Fork. A column of smoke from both fires has been reported at 10,000 feet the air. The prevalence of dead, beetle-kill spruce in these forests has exacerbated the spread of the wildfires, fire officials said.


“While it's a little disconcerting to see big fires, in the long run, it's probably good for the forest's health,” Dave Pitcher, whose family owns the ski area, told the Durango Herald. “The spruce beetle was a slow death.”


According to the Herald article, Wolf Creek Ski Area had spent about $100,000 annually trying to remove dead trees, but finally abandoned the tactic three years ago, after the forest became overrun.




Photo: Windy Pass fire



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