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Wild Cow Fire burning in far western Garfield County

The Bureau of Land Management reported a 20-acre fire along Baxter Pass in far western Garfield County on Monday night.

Baxter Pass is about 40 miles north of Mack along Garfield County Road 201, just miles from the Utah border.

“Engine crews, BLM smoke jumpers and a heavy air tanker are working to contain the fire,” a Facebook update from the BLM Colorado Wildfire page states.

Sylvan Fire updates: Blaze nearly doubles in size overnight to 2,630 acres

The Sylvan Fire burns southwest of Sylvan Lake State Park Monday near Eagle. The fire has grown to 2,630 acres and counting since igniting on Sunday afternoon.Chris Dillmann /cdillmann@vaildaily.com

9 a.m. update: The Sylvan Fire burning 12 miles south of Eagle nearly doubled in size overnight into Tuesday morning. The fire has grown to 2,630 acres — a little more than 4 square miles — since it ignited Sunday afternoon.

During a community briefing Monday evening, Justin Conrad, U.S. Forest Service Sylvan Fire management officer, said crews are working to contain the blaze on three sides and direct it toward Red Table Mountain where vegetation to fuel the blaze is sparse.

“Currently the fire is staying within the area we are intending it to stay in,” Conrad said.

According to David Boyd of the U.S. Forest Service, firefighters are making progress securing fire line on the east and west sides of the fire. The fire is burning in timber on the White River National Forest about half a mile from Sylvan Lake State Park. The cause is under investigation, but lightning is suspected.

The Sylvan fire seen Monday from a commercial flight landing at the Eagle County Regional Airport.
Amy McLane/Special to the Daily

During the Monday briefing, Conrad noted that currently, the fire is not threatening any structures. That was an increased concern for downvalley residents who watched the fire plume grow substantially Monday afternoon. Conrad said crews are trying to use natural barriers to direct the fire away from populated areas and currently the fire is burning in a remote area.

“Firefighters are struggling with access and accessibility right now,” Conrad said.

Stay away

About 75 personnel are assigned to the fire along with a light and heavy helicopter.

The White River National Forest has issued a closure order for the area around the Sylvan Fire. Campers and others recreating in Sylvan Lake State Park and much of the surrounding lands have been evacuated. There are manned road blocks along Brush Creek Road at the east/west forks south of Eagle and along Hardscrabble Road south of Gypsum.

The Sylvan Fire burns southwest of Sylvan Lake State Park Monday near Eagle.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

As firefighters travel to the area to help battle the Sylvan Fire, Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek stressed it is vital to keep other traffic off roads including Crooked Creek Pass, Eagle-Thomasville Road and portions of Cottonwood Pass. Full closure information is available at ecemergency.org.

“We are asking everyone who has no reason to be up there to stay out of the area,” van Beek said at the Monday briefing.

He added that arrangements have been made for livestock owners to evacuate animals from the area to the Eagle County Fairgrounds.

Firefighters have taken steps to protect structures at Sylvan Lake State Park. Other infrastructure at risk includes an Xcel Energy transmission cable.

Along with campers and others recreating at Sylvan Lake State Park, evacuations have included the Yeoman Park, Crooked Creek Pass dispersed camping, LEDE Reservoir and Hardscrabble areas.

As of Monday, the upper Frying Pan from the Dam to Hagerman Pass is under pre-evacuation notice due to the fire. An evacuation center is set up at the Basalt High School (600 Southside Drive). If you choose to evacuate and need resources, go to the Basalt High School.

The town of Eagle has posted information about fire-related trail closures at TownOfEagle.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=519.

The latest information, including a map of the closure when it is available, will be posted at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7562.

The Forest Service is considering the fire a Type-III incident. Crews from Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, Eagle River Fire Protection District and the U.S. Forest Service-White River National Forest initially responded Sunday.

John LaConte and Nate Peterson contributed reporting.

Water, other experts offer countering opinions over Ascendigo summer camp plan in Missouri Heights

Members of the public pack the Garfield County commissioners meeting room in Glenwood Springs Monday to hear about plans for the Ascendigo Ranch camp for autistic children in rural Missouri Heights east of Carbondale.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Water — specifically the adequacy of that precious resource to serve the Ascendigo Ranch autistic children’s camp without harming nearby residential wells — became a key point of contention Monday on the opening day of a public land-use hearing before Garfield County commissioners.

On the first of what is expected to be a two-day hearing, Ascendigo Autism Services concluded its pitch to allow for a children’s summer camp and year-round equestrian and outdoor services facility on 126 acres at the far east end of Missouri Heights above El Jebel.

A lengthy counter-point was then provided by land-use, water, legal and other consultants working on behalf of the opposition group Keep Missouri Heights Rural.

The neighborhood group, made up of homeowners in the mostly large-lot rural subdivisions near the proposed camp property, presented a petition with more than 620 signatures opposing the project.

Many of those opponents, along with supporters of the project, will get their say starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday when the public comment portion of the hearing begins.

County commissioners are expected to deliberate and possibly reach a decision later Tuesday.

Carbondale-based Ascendigo proposes to develop the site to include an 8,500-square-foot lodge for up to 24 campers and two counselors, a staff lodge of the same size that would sleep 48, a 6,800-square-foot “basecamp” building with reception and dining facilities, a 14,000-square-foot activity barn/equestrian center, and a caretaker and guest dwelling.

While Ascendigo maintains the planned camp use will have less impact than the 15 to 23 houses that could have been built on the site under previous approvals and developer intentions, opponents disagree.

Keep Missouri Heights Rural has raised more than $25,000 in donations to fight the plans, including hiring consultants to review Ascendigo’s representations and offer counter-arguments.

Among them is water.

Both Ascendigo’s water studies and water engineers reviewing the plans for the county agree that, while the aquifer is slow to recharge, especially during the current drought, there is an adequate water supply without negatively impacting neighboring water users.

Comparing the camp facility to the prospect of 23 houses, Bob Schultz, the land-use consultant for Ascendigo, said the difference in water use is about 9,701 gallons per day for the camp and more than 13,000 gallons per day for a residential development.


Opponents have countered the number of houses that would otherwise likely be built on the site, pointing out that it’s only approved for 15. Schultz said the previous developer had plans for at least eight more than that.

Garfield County planners have recommended approval of the project, based in part on reviews by outside engineers, including water.

County consultant Michael Erion of LRE Water concluded that the project does meet the county’s criteria and has both a legal and physical water supply.

“Long-term studies show significant recharge of the aquifer from precipitation and imported water,” he said during the hearing. Erion did note, however, that recent testing, including by the applicant, has shown the aquifer is not fully recharging. Over the course of a year, though, the camp would not cause any more impact than existing or other future development, he said.

Jonathan Kelly of Wright Water Engineers conducted an independent review on behalf of Keep Missouri Heights Rural and said there is cause for concern.

First, his review found that Ascendigo would use about 25% more water than it has claimed, and that level of use would be about 28% greater than the previously approved residential subdivision, Kelly said.

In addition, based on recent history of water well performance in the area, “you can’t guarantee the recharge rate … or the long-term viability of those wells,” he said.

The competing consultants also disagreed over the additional traffic that would be added to roads in the area from the camp development, also as compared to houses.

Additional reasons offered by opponents for the commissioners to deny the project included increased wildfire concerns, incompatibility with the surrounding residential neighborhoods, poor access to the site and the precedent of allowing what some contend is a commercial-scale operation.

Ascendigo has applied for the camp using the “educational facility” definition in the county’s land-use code as an allowed use in the rural zone district. Opponents counter it should be defined as a camp, subject to a zoning amendment.

“We believe this is the ideal location,” Ascendigo CEO Peter Bell said to kick off the applicant’s presentation. “It’s less dense (than a residential development), more environmentally friendly and more compatible than the alternative.”

Bell also spoke about the importance of the camp development in furthering Ascendigo’s mission to serve children on the autism spectrum and their families. The outdoor camp experience is a big part of that, he said.

Ascendigo has looked at other locations for the camp, but settled on the Missouri Heights property that it acquired last fall because it is rural, but also close to the valley floor and services.

Ascendigo’s chief operating officer, Dan Richardson, said the plan has been altered to make concessions to the neighbors around building design, relocating the main entrance and redirecting traffic away from nearby residential roads, and minimizing outdoor lighting.

The camp itself is expected to have a maximum of 100 people on site on peak days during the 24-day summer camp, and no more than 80 during non-peak times. Special fundraising events on two days of the year might draw about 150 people, Richardson said.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Sylvan Fire updates: Firefighters make progress as blaze grows to 1,500 acres

The Sylvan Fire burns southwest of Sylvan Lake State Park Monday near Eagle. The fire is last reported at more than 1,500 acres and counting.
Chris Dillmann /cdillmann@vaildaily.com

7 p.m. Monday update: The Sylvan Fire burning 12 miles south of Eagle has grown to approximately 1,500 acres — 2.2 square miles — since it ignited Sunday afternoon.

But as of Monday evening, that growth has happened where fire crews have directed it to happen.

During a community briefing Monday evening, Justin Conrad, U.S. Forest Service Sylvan Fire management officer, said crews are working to contain the blaze on three sides and direct it toward Red Table Mountain where vegetation to fuel the blaze is sparse.

“Currently the fire is staying within the area we are intending it to stay in,” Conrad said.

According to David Boyd of the U.S. Forest Service, firefighters are making progress securing fire line on the east and west sides of the fire. The fire is burning in timber on the White River National Forest about half a mile from Sylvan Lake State Park. The cause is under investigation, but lightning is suspected.

A large plume erupts Monday near Eagle. The Sylvan Fire sparked Sunday afternoon from a suspected lightning strike.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

During the Monday briefing, Conrad noted that currently, the fire is not threatening any structures. That was an increased concern for downvalley residents who watched the fire plume grow substantially Monday afternoon. Conrad said crews are trying to use natural barriers to direct the fire away from populated areas and currently the fire is burning in a remote area.

“Firefighters are struggling with access and accessibility right now,” Conrad said.

Stay away

About 75 personnel are assigned to the fire along with a light and heavy helicopter.

The White River National Forest has issued a closure order for the area around the Sylvan Fire. Campers and others recreating in Sylvan Lake State Park and much of the surrounding lands have been evacuated. There are manned road blocks along Brush Creek Road at the east/west forks south of Eagle and along Hardscrabble Road south of Gypsum.

The Sylvan Fire burns southwest of Sylvan Lake State Park Monday near Eagle.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

As firefighters travel to the area to help battle the Sylvan Fire, Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek stressed it is vital to keep other traffic off roads including Crooked Creek Pass, Eagle-Thomasville Road and portions of Cottonwood Pass. Full closure information is available at ecemergency.org.

“We are asking everyone who has no reason to be up there to stay out of the area,” van Beek said at the Monday briefing.

He added that arrangements have been made for livestock owners to evacuate animals from the area to the Eagle County Fairgrounds.

Extreme conditions

Crews battling the Sylvan Fire worked through much of Sunday night to create fire lines along the power line road. Firefighters reported extreme fire behavior Sunday as strong winds pushed the fire to the south and southeast.

After the fire broke out around 3:15 p.m. Sunday, it quickly grew to more than 180 acres by nightfall.

Firefighters have taken steps to protect structures at Sylvan Lake State Park. Other infrastructure at risk includes an Xcel Energy transmission cable.

Along with campers and others recreating at Sylvan Lake State Park, evacuations have included the Yeoman Park, Crooked Creek Pass dispersed camping, LEDE Reservoir and Hardscrabble areas.

As of 6:30 a.m. Monday, the upper Frying Pan from the Dam to Hagerman Pass is under pre-evacuation notice due to the fire. An evacuation center is set up at the Basalt High School (600 Southside Drive). If you choose to evacuate and need resources, go to the Basalt High School.

The town of Eagle has posted information about fire-related trail closures at TownOfEagle.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=519.

The latest information, including a map of the closure when it is available, will be posted at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7562.

The Forest Service is considering the fire a Type-III incident. Crews from Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, Eagle River Fire Protection District and the U.S. Forest Service-White River National Forest initially responded Sunday.

Firefighters on the Western Slope also responded to a wildland fire in South Routt County on Sunday, and lightning sparked small fire in North Routt County on Sunday.

John LaConte and Nate Peterson contributed reporting.

UPDATE: Latest Garfield County COVID-19 statistics and risk level

Latest Garfield County COVID-19 statistics and risk level

AS OF MONDAY, JUNE 21

Cumulative cases: 6,195 (6 new since Sunday)

Deaths since outbreak began: 43 confirmed

Current Risk Level: Yellow-Concern

Recent 7-day case totals: June 16-21 – 53; June 8-14 – 47; June 1-7 – 47

Two-week daily case average: 7.14

Single-day high: 101 on 12/10/20

7-day incidence rate: 89.7 per 100,000 people

7-day test positivity rate: 6.7% (14-day: 5.9%)

7-day hospitalization rate: 11%

Vaccines administered (as of 6/17): 54,517 (30,065 first doses; 24,452 second doses; 52% of eligible population fully vaccinated; 60% have first dose)

Source: Garfield County Public Health

HOSPITAL STATS

Valley View Hospital, as of 6/15/2021

Note: Valley View is updating its reporting software and will provide new figures for specimens collected and positive results when that update is complete.

Hospitalizations since outbreak began: 273 (6 new since 6/8)

Grand River Hospital, as of 6/15/2021

Specimens collected through Grand River Health: 8,526 (+86 since 6/8)

Positive results: 1,330 (18 new since 6/8)

Hospitalizations since outbreak began: 54 (2 new since 6/8)

Source: Hospital statistics released weekly on Tuesday

ACTIVE OUTBREAKS IN GARFIELD COUNTY

(Updated 6/16)

AeroCare Holdings Inc., Silt: Date determined, 5/5; 4 staff cases.

Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home, Rifle: Date new outbreak determined, 4/9; 5 resident, 7 staff cases.

FedEx Ground, Glenwood Springs: Date determined, 6/16; 7 staff cases.

Garfield County Detention Center, Glenwood Springs: Date determined, 4/7; 21 inmates, 14 staff cases

Heritage Park Care Center, Carbondale: Date determined, 5/20; 5 resident, 6 staff cases.

New Creation Preschool, New Castle: Date determined, 5/28; 4 staff, 4 attendee cases.

Renew Roaring Fork, Glenwood Springs: Date determined, 6/10; 2 resident, 3 staff cases.

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment Covid-19 outbreak data page

Mental health concerns linger coming out of the pandemic; area agencies build coalition for prevention, treatment

Mind Springs Health, through its Glenwood Springs facility located on South Grand Avenue, now operates a Mobile Recovery Team to respond to people in substance addiction or mental health crisis.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Garfield County did not see the major uptick in suicides last year that mental health professionals were worried about due to the economic and personal stresses brought on by the pandemic.

In some ways, though, the rebound from the public health restrictions that were in place for most of last year and into the first part of 2021 — and a new kind of isolation that comes with that — might be harder.

“Where we thought we’d have an epidemic of suicides last year, we did not see that in Garfield County, or even in Colorado or nationally,” Mason Hohstadt, public health specialist with Garfield County Public Health, said during a recent “mental health debrief” before the county commissioners.

That’s not particularly surprising on the local front, since Garfield County saw a record number of suicides in 2019, when 24 people took their own lives, according to Garfield County Coroner records.

That number dropped to 14 last year — still a very concerning number and an unfortunate barometer on the overall state of peoples’ mental health, Hohstadt said.

Hohstadt said in a follow-up interview last week that the trend so far this year is alarming, and all the more reason to step up suicide prevention and mental health and addiction intervention services.

Through the end of May, Garfield County had recorded eight suicide deaths.

“That’s not higher than at this time in 2019, but it is higher than this time last year,” Hohstadt said.

People are still struggling, he said. And, what’s changed this year is that they may not have the same level of support that they did during the height of the pandemic.

Hohstadt chairs the Garfield County Suicide Prevention Coalition and is co-chair of the county’s Human Services Commission, in addition to his work with Public Health.

“We do worry that, as we do go back to normal, some of that connectedness we had in 2020, which was sort of forced, is going away,” he said. “People who are still struggling may not have the support and that safety net that they had last year.”

The May 17 debrief and panel discussion brought together mental health and substance abuse experts from Mind Springs Health, Mountain Family Health Centers, the Aspen Hope Center, Youth Zone and High Rockies Harm Reduction.

The primary impetus was to review statistics from the various organizations over the past year. Among them was a reported 800% increase in calls to crisis lines in the region.

There’s good and bad news in that statistic, Hohstadt said.

“It says to us that people are aware of their mental health and know that there is a resource available to them, and they used it when they felt like they needed it,” he said.

While suicide prevention and mental health crisis lines are critical in the most acute situations, Hohstadt said about 65% of people who call in “just want to talk,” perhaps preventing that crisis point.

Late last year, MindSprings Health increased its crisis response efforts with the launch of its Mobile Recovery Team.

The team of mental healthcare professionals, peer specialists and case managers responds on a referral basis to provide immediate assistance for people who are in crisis, whether it’s a mental health emergency or substance abuse — or, in many situations, both.

If needed, the team can connect people not only to treatment services but, if needed, housing, food and employment assistance, said Hans Lutgring, outpatient program director for Mind Springs in Glenwood Springs.

The Mobile Recovery Team operates under the umbrella of Mind Springs, but other organizations are involved, making it a true collaborative effort, he explained.

Peer support is often the critical first step, Lutgring said.

“Through that collaboration, we can create connections points for people and really touch on the power of the peer specialist,” he said. “These are the people with the lived experiences, who are ready to use those experiences as the best entryway for people who are struggling with substance abuse.”

Oftentimes, people in crisis aren’t quite ready to jump into a treatment program, Lutgring said.

“What the Mobile Recovery Team is best at is starting the conversation,” he said.

A major concern both during and coming out of the pandemic has been the state of mental health and addiction among youth.

YouthZone, which serves the area from Aspen to Parachute, reported a 6% increase for both high-risk and intermediate-risk intakes from March through December 2020, new Executive Director Jami Hayes said during the debrief discussion.

“We saw a significant spike in alcohol use among youth, specifically,” she said. “Our parents are screaming for support and help around this and other behavioral concerns, and we responded with free parent consultations during the pandemic.”

For its part around that concern, the Aspen Hope Center has expanded its school-based mental health centers in the region, said Sarah Fedishan, program director for the valleywide mental health support services organization.

And, behavioral intervention services are being made available earlier and earlier in a child’s development, she said.

“We now have new contracts starting in the elementary schools … and are excited to have school-based clinicians at all three school levels providing referrals to Mind Springs or Mountain Family Health,” Fedishen said. “It’s about providing a continuum of care, and catching students who have behavioral issues as soon as we can.”

Hohstadt said he is encouraged by the collaborative efforts among the various organizations to provide prevention, intervention and treatment services in what’s historically been an underserved rural region when it comes to mental health and addiction services.

“I’m excited that these efforts work to meet people where they are, and help them help themselves,” he said.

“It allows for the fact that people aren’t always in a place to take on treatment just yet. We can tend to get kind of moral high-groundish in these conversations and say you have to do these things to get better. Sometimes, that can make things worse.”

That’s especially true with opioid addiction, said Maggie Seldeen of the High Rockies Harm Reduction.

Her organization has been working to get Narcan into the hands of law enforcement and other emergency response personnel to deal with overdose situations.

While suicide numbers were down in Garfield County and statewide last year, overdose-related deaths were up slightly, from 10 in 2019 to 11 in 2020. In Colorado, that number increased from about 1,100 in 2019 to nearly 1,500 last year, Seldeen said.

“We would probably see a much greater increase if not for the collaborative relationships we have, including with law enforcement,” she said.

Seldeen has also been working on an effort to establish a syringe access program and recovery center in Carbondale to help people through opioid addiction.

One challenge to providing consistent professional treatment and counseling services in the region is a shortage of labor and the high cost of living, which can be an obstacle even for many professionals.

“Finding qualified, experienced mental health workers has been a challenge for us, and for every community mental health provider in the state,” Stephanie Keister, public information officer for Mind Springs, said in a follow-up interview. “That’s been going on for several years, and isn’t something particularly new.”

Fortunately for Mind Springs, though, she said there hasn’t been a huge turnover in employees for the organization, which serves 10 Western Slope counties.

“And we haven’t really seen any significant delays in getting people into treatment,” Keister said.

Because of its size, she said Mind Springs has the benefit of being able to tap into resources and partnerships with other organizations across a much larger region.

Mental Health Help Resources

IF YOU, OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW NEEDS TO TALK ABOUT THEIR MENTAL HEALTH PLEASE REACH OUT TO ONE OF THESE ORGANIZATIONS:

Aspen Hope Center: 970-925-5858

Mind Springs Health Crisis Line: 888-207-4004

Aspen Strong: 970-925-5858

Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255 (TALK), or text TALK to 38255

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

Suicide Prevention Coalition of Garfield County

National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Roaring Fork Valley: Helpline 800-950-6264, or text NAMI to 741741

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Garfield County moves back to ‘level yellow’ COVID-19 concern with spike in Delta variant cases

Garfield County Public Health officials are again stepping up public outreach to encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccination, as the vaccination rate levels off and cases of the highly contagious Delta variant increase.

Sara Brainard, Public Health nurse manager, said during an update to county commissioners on Monday that the county saw a quadrupling in the number of confirmed cases of the Delta variant in the past week.

“That’s not a scare tactic, but it is something to be aware of,” Brainard said. “We do know that it is more communicable and that there is a higher severity of illness with that variant.”

The county has also returned to the higher-alert level yellow due to concerns about an increasing test positivity rate — 5.6% over the past 14 days — and weekly case counts hovering around 50.

“The vaccination is still our best defense, so we are continuing to get the word out that it’s not too late to get vaccinated and that people should still get it,” Brainard said.

Color levels are not currently associated with any increased restrictions but are merely a point of reference for how the county is doing with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Garfield Public Health has also called a press conference for Tuesday morning, inviting area doctors to speak to the issue and what they’re seeing among the cases that are resulting in hospitalization.

The press conference is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday via Zoom, and will include presentations by Dr. Kevin Coleman of Grand River Health, Dr. Ben Peery of Valley View Hospital and Brainard, representing Public Health.

The general public is invited to listen in, but will not be allowed to ask direct questions of the panelists. They will, however, be able to ‘chat’ in questions.

Information can be found on the Garfield County Public Health Facebook page @Garfield Health, and Spanish translation is to be available for the public listening.

As of June 17, Garfield Public Health reported that 52% of the county’s population eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is fully vaccinated, and 60% has received at least one dose of either of the two-dose vaccines.

“So, we still have a little ways to go to meet that July 4 goal (of 70%),” Brainard said.

The heightened concern also comes as Garfield County has reported five COVID-19-related deaths since the beginning of May, including two breakthrough cases among older people who had been vaccinated. The other three had not been vaccinated or had not yet received the second dose, Public Health reported last week.

Still, the vaccine is highly effective against COVID-19, including the Delta variant, and the vast majority of recent new cases are among people who are not vaccinated, Brainard said.

Garfield Public Health continues to provide free vaccines on a walk-in basis, on Mondays and Wednesdays at the Glenwood Springs office, and Tuesdays and Thursdays in Rifle.

The Colorado Department of Public Health’s mobile vaccine unit is also operating at different locations in Garfield County during evening hours and on weekends, Brainard said.

She added that anyone who is not vaccinated and is known to have been exposed to the Delta variant is being asked to quarantine for 14 days.

“No quarantine is needed if someone has been exposed but is fully vaccinated,” she said.

Brainard added that a common reason people give for not having yet been vaccinated is that they previously had COVID-19 and believe they still have the antibodies to fight re-infection. That’s only true for about 90 days after having the illness, she said.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Missing Basalt cyclist found dead in Snowmass Creek

Search and rescue crews found a missing cyclist dead in Snowmass Creek on Sunday morning after nearly 12 hours searching the Old Snowmass and Basalt area, according to a news release.

Gregory Smith, a 69-year-old Basalt resident, was reported overdue to the Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center around 10:17 p.m. Saturday. He was believed to be headed toward the Snowmass Creek Road area for a bicycle ride from his home in Basalt.

Basalt Police Department officers and Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office deputies spent several hours that evening and into the early morning searching for the man to no avail. Around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, officials contacted team leaders from Mountain Rescue Aspen to request a search; rescue personnel immediately responded and were in the field actively searching “all plausible options” around Old Snowmass and Basalt by 6:55 a.m.

Personnel located the cyclist deceased in the water in Snowmass Creek around 11:10 a.m. Sunday. The body was located less than half a mile up Snowmass Creek Road from Highway 82 in Old Snowmass. A total of 24 Mountain Rescue Aspen members were involved; crews searched in vehicles, on bicycles and on foot.

Mountain Rescue Aspen personnel teamed up with a Roaring Fork Fire Rescue swift-water rescue team to recover the body. Pitkin County investigators arrived on the scene and the coroner transported the man to Aspen Valley Hospital around 1:34 p.m. All rescue personnel were out of the field by 2 p.m.

The Pitkin County Coroner’s Office was in the process of contacting the next of kin as of Sunday afternoon, coroner Steve Ayers said.

Deputy coroner Audra Keith was assigned to the case, but the office was “very early” in the post-mortem process of determining the cause and manner of death, Ayers said.

Pitkin County Patrol Sergeant Levi Borst said there were “more questions than answers” about the incident in a phone call Sunday afternoon.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the name of the cyclist. The Pitkin County Coroner’s Office identified the man as Basalt resident Gregory Smith, 69, in a news release sent Monday morning.

kwilliams@aspentimes.com

Fires to the west producing a lot of smoke in Garfield County

Photo courtesy of the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office

Two fires burning in northwestern Colorado are producing a lot of smoke in Garfield County.

The Brush Creek Fire, located near Brush Mountain on Douglas Pass, is estimated at 10 acres, putting up lots of smoke but not making any active runs at this time, according to a news release from Garfield County Emergency Management.

“Two engine crews and three modules are working to contain the fire,” the release states.

Crews are estimated to contain the fire by Tuesday.

The Oil Springs Fire, which is located 20 miles south of Rangely and about 11 miles from the Brush Creek Fire, is also producing a lot of smoke and was at 5,000 acres as of 2 a.m. Monday, according to a release from the Bureau of Land Management.

Numerous road closures are in place, including Colorado Highway 139, which runs from Loma to Rangely.

The fire is 0% contained at this time and was caused by lightning.

The fuel type is Juniper and pinyon.

The fire experienced significant growth Sunday, with multiple spot fires and crossing Colorado Highway 139, according to the release.

“Firefighters are still witnessing active fire behavior due to dry conditions, receptive fuels and wind. Multiple agencies have been called in to assist with structure protection through the night as winds are expected to continue with gusts up to 40 mph,” the release states.

Smoke is visible from Colorado Highway 139, Colorado highway 64, Rangely, Meeker and all surrounding areas.

Other nearby fires are burning to the east, including the Sylan Fire in Eagle County and the Muddy Slide Fire in southern Routt County.

Road Closures:

Road Closures:

Colorado Highway 139

Rio Blanco County Road 23 and Rio Blanco County Road 113 intersection

Rio Blanco County Road 122 at mile marker 10

Evacuations:

Rio Blanco County Road 116

Rio Blanco County Road 27

Rio Blanco County Road 28

Rio Blanco County Road 120

Rio Blanco County Road 26A

Rio Blanco County Road 103

Rio Blanco County Road 128

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or smarvel@postindependent.com.

Pre-evacuation notices in effect above Ruedi Reservoir because of Sylvan Fire

The Sylvan Fire burns southwest of Sylvan Lake State Park Sunday near Eagle. (Chris Dillmann
cdillmann@vaildaily.com)

As of 6:30 a.m. the upper Frying Pan Valley from Ruedi Dam to Hagerman Pass is under a pre-evacuation notice due to the Sylvan Fire near Eagle, according to local public safety alerts.

An evacuation center is set up at Basalt High School; more information is available at www.ecemo.org.

According to a tweet from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, those in the Ruedi, Meredith and Thomasville areas (including all residences and businesses above Ruedi Dam) may be asked to evacuate if the fire worsens.

The Sylvan Fire broke out around 3:15 p.m. Sunday near the Sylvan Lake Campground about 12 miles south of Eagle; by that night, the blaze had grown to more than 180 acres. Fire crews reported extreme fire behavior on Sunday; campers and recreationalists in Sylvan Lake State Park have been evacuated. Additional information about the incident is available at bit.ly/sylvanfire.

The pre-evacuation is for the Sylvan Fire, not another wildland fire that crews responded to Sunday evening near mile marker 11 on Frying Pan Road near Ruedi Reservoir. A helicopter was dropping water on the fire and a federal wildland crew was enroute to that blaze as of about 4:45 p.m. Sunday, according to a post from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

kwilliams@aspentimes.com