GRAND JUNCTION, CO - Colorado Parks and Wildlife is advising hunters heading to Game Management Unit (GMU) 23 in the White River National Forest that the southeast portion of the unit will be temporarily closed by the U.S. Forest Service during the upcoming big-game seasons due to concerns about an active wildfire in the area.
Although recent rainfall has dampened the fire, USFS officials are concerned about the number of weakened trees and snags caused by the heat and flames, as well as concerns that the fire could re-ignite as temperatures rise and rainfall moves out of the area. The closure extends through Dec. 31, but could end sooner if conditions warrant.
USFS officials say the Middle Elk fire was caused by an unattended campfire. Since it was discovered, it has grown to 257 acres, burning in a mix of spruce and fir trees, open areas and high elevation aspen groves west of Forest Road 245, also known as the Buford - New Castle Road. The road is not currently included in the closure and remains open to hunters.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reminding hunters and other outdoor recreationists to observe closure notices and to follow campfire rules and regulations as they head to their camps.
"This past summer in Colorado, we saw first-hand how serious wildfires can be," said Ron Velarde, Regional Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "It is concerning that, even with the loss of life and damage to property that occurred from wildfires just a few months ago, we continue to see examples of irresponsible behavior by a few people, putting many at risk."
In northwest Colorado this year, wildlife managers have discovered numerous unattended campfires. Officials with the Upper Colorado Inter-Agency Fire Management Unit say they have seen an increase in the number of unattended campfires over previous years. Officials with the USFS report discovering seven unattended campfires over one recent weekend in northwest Colorado.
"It is critical that campfires be attended, and safe," said Bill de Vergie, Area Wildlife Manger for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Meeker. "During the seasons, our officers check for hunting violations, but we will also be looking for any unsafe situation, including unattended campfires."
To make sure your campfire is completely out, please follow these recommended rules, found at http://www.smokeybear.com/campfire-safety.asp
- Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible
- Pour lots of water on the fire; drown ALL embers, not just the red ones
- Pour until hissing sound stops
- Stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shovel
- Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers
- Stir and make sure everything is wet and they are cold to the touch
If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough dirt or sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cool. Do not bury the fire as it will continue to smolder and could ignite roots, eventually rising to the surface and starting a wildfire.
Any person responsible for starting a wildfire could be assessed stiff fines and prison time, and may be financially liable for damage caused by a wildfire due to their careless or negligent behavior.
For information about hunting access in GMU 23, contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Meeker office at 970-878-6090
For more information about the Middle Elk closure and fire, please visit: www.fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriver
Colorado Parks and Wildlife was created by the merger of Colorado State Parks and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, two nationally recognized leaders in conservation, outdoor recreation and wildlife management. Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, all of Colorado's wildlife, more than 300 state wildlife areas and a host of recreational programs.
To learn more about Colorado's state parks, please see: http://www.parks.state.co.us
To learn more about Colorado's wildlife programs, please see: http://wildlife.state.co.us