Officials say fire caused by lightning near Rifle will benefit the forest

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RIFLE, Colo. — A fire caused by a lightning strike, dubbed the Middle Mamm Fire by officials, has burned 250 acres about 10 miles south of Rifle, but officials say the path it’s burning will be beneficial to the area’s vegetation.

According to a news release from the Upper Colorado River Fire and Aviation Management Unit, the fire is taking a natural course, leaving islands of unburned treas as it moves, which will leave room for new trees to grow.

“This leads to a diversity in the age of trees, resulting in a healthier ecosystem that can better resist disease and future wildfires,” according to the release.

The fire is largely burning diseased or dead trees and thick brush, which will help clear the way for a new, healthy habitat for area wildlife.

“Wildlife such as elk, deer, moose and bighorn sheep benefit as new forage increases and openings are created in dense forest stands,” said Natasha Goedert, White River National Forest Wildlife Biologist, in the release.

The fire is expected to remain low-to-moderate intensity, burning through dead and diseased trees and thick brush. Occasionally, concentrations of fuels may cause increased fire activity and smoke.  The beneficial effects of this fire will be long term, yet many can be seen soon after the fire. When brush and timber is burned, meadows and aspen stands are revitalized providing excellent wildlife habitat.

Fire managers will continue to monitor the fire, and 36 fire personnel and a helicopter are also at the scene.

No closures are in place, but a closure of the area may be implemented if public or firefighter safety is at risk.

Smoke will be visible near Rifle, Silt and I-70.

For information on local air quality, go to the Garfield County Air Quality Management website, and for statewide information refer to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Officials ask that no one use drones in the area, which could pose risks to firefighter safety.

A meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday to update the public on the progress and outlook for the Middle Mamm Fire at the Garfield County Sheriff’s Annex, 106 County Road 333-A, Rifle.

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