Middle Mamm Fire grows to 985 acres; firing operations planned to gain containment | PostIndependent.com

Middle Mamm Fire grows to 985 acres; firing operations planned to gain containment

A tandem rotor helicopter drops water on a hot spot on the north edge of the Middle Mamm fire south of Rifle Saturday.
Kyle Mills / Post Independent

SUNDAY UPDATE — The Middle Mamm Fire that’s burning about 10 miles south of Rifle on the White River National Forest grew to 985 acres Saturday, according to a Sunday morning press release.

Much of the growth was in a large spot fire that established in Friday evening’s high winds. The spot remained almost entirely on National Forest System lands, according to the latest release.

“The spot fire burned in a decadent spruced-fir stand with numerous downed trees; this produced a good deal of smoke on Friday evening. It slowed substantially when it reached a stand of green aspen.

On Saturday, winds subsided and firefighters were able to place retardant along the northeast ridgeline, according to the release.

“Crews are reinforcing containment lines on the west flank, and constructing new containment lines in preparation for firing operations. If conditions are appropriate and the firing takes place, increased smoke will likely be visible. These operations will most likely occur in late afternoon or early evening.  These actions are a priority to limit the spread of the fire to private lands.”

Firefighters removed vegetation and mowed around structures at the base of the ridgeline. Crews will continue to be available for structure protection.

Public meeting Sunday

A public meeting will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Garfield County Sheriff’s Annex, 106 County Road 333-A, off Airport Road south of Rifle, to discuss the Middle Mamm Fire management plan and address any questions.

SATURDAY UPDATE — Strong, persistent winds pushed the Middle Mamm fire north, and a large spot fire became established in a thick spruce-fir stand in Gant Gulch, according to the latest information from the U.S. Forest Service Saturday afternoon.

According to a news release, numerous small fires have also established between the two fires.

As of late Friday night, the fire size was 941 acres, primarily located on National Forest System lands; with less than 5 acres on private lands.

“Additional resources are arriving and conducting suppression activities to minimize spread onto private lands,” according to the release. “Crews are improving and constructing containment line to the east that may be used for a firing operation to remove remaining fuels around the spot fires if and when an opportunity arises.”

Meanwhile, air resources from around the region are also applying retardant and water, when winds permit, to slow fire spread.

Forest officials have also expanded the temporary emergency area closure to include additional sections north of the fire.

A public meeting to discuss the fire management plan will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Garfield County Sheriff’s Annex, 106 County Road 333-A, Rifle.

On Friday, windy weather and continued dry conditions caused the Middle Mamm Fire to grow rapidly.

As a result, much of the forest lands in the vicinity have been closed, and the main county road leading into the area is also restricted to local residents only.

No structures are currently threatened, but a fire engine is positioned at the end of CR 319 (West Mamm) for potential structure protection.

The Garfield County Sheriff will be closing CR 319 (West Mamm) at the intersection of 322 (Shafer Road); only residents and emergency vehicles will be allowed to pass.

The fire burning in a remote area 10 miles south of Rifle first started in late July and was caused by lightning. After burning slowly for the past two months, it grew from about 322 acres Friday afternoon to more than 940 acres by late evening, according to a late Friday press release from the Forest Service.

The fire has been managed by the U.S. Forest Service to improve forest health and wildlife habitat by clearing fire fuels in the area. But efforts to contain the fire have been stepped up with the recent unfavorable conditions.

“For several weeks, crews have been building and reinforcing contingency line, conducting firing operations and using helicopters to drop water on spot fires and prevent the fire from advancing toward private property,” the Forest Service said in a late Friday press release.

The Middle Mamm Fire as seen from the Highlands East neighborhood in Rifle Friday afternoon.
Facebook photo courtesy Joshua Hamel

Gusting winds prevented air resources from placing retardant and assisting with bucket drops on Friday, but additional crews and air resources have been arriving throughout the week. Another crew and more air resources are expected this weekend.

“Recent dry, windy weather has cured fuels and increased active fire behavior and potential for growth on the Middle Mamm Fire,” according to an earlier release on Friday.

On Saturday, winds are expected to subside.

“Air resources will place retardant along the northwest ridgeline to slow the fire’s progression and allow crews on the ground more time to construct and reinforce containment line,” according to the release.

A temporary emergency area closure in the vicinity of the fire has been ordered by the Rifle Ranger District of the White River National Forest and the Grand Valley Ranger District of the adjacent Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests, in both Mesa and Garfield counties have issued

The closure area includes several miles of Forest Service Trail (FST) 2160, from the West Mamm drainage to the intersection of the Battlements Trail (FST 2160) and Forest Service Road 271 straddling the national forest boundaries.

The closure area on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison side also includes approximately 2 miles of the Battlement Trail (FST 527), which is now closed between the intersection with the Brush Creek Trail (FST 529) and East Brush Creek Trail (FST 504).

This closure is to remain in effect until Dec. 31, or until it is rescinded, according to the release.

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