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Prescribed burns planned for some Garfield County public lands

Fire managers may conduct prescribed burns on more than 5,300 acres of public lands in Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle and Mesa counties in the coming weeks.

The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire and Aviation Management Unit announced the location of the regional burn areas Thursday for White River National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands.

“Prescribed fires are an important tool land managers can use to create fuel breaks that can make fire suppression efforts more effective and reduce risk to firefighters and nearby communities,” said Larry Sandoval, BLM Colorado River Valley field manager. 

Land managers conduct prescribed fires to improve habitat for big game and other native wildlife, and reduce fuels to lesson potential growth and severity of future wildfires.

During a prescribed burn, low-intensity fire consumes overgrown fuels while promoting suckering and sprouting of nutrient-rich vegetation.

Smoke from the prescribed burns could be visible from nearby communities and roadways, the BLM said.

This fall’s potential prescribed burn locations include:

June Creek Prescribed Fire, BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office (Garfield County) – Up to 727 acres, 11 miles south of Silt.

Roan Plateau Prescribed Fire, BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office (Garfield County) – Up to 846 acres, 7 miles northwest of Rifle.

Braderich Prescribed Fire, Aspen/Sopris Ranger District (Pitkin County) – Up to 500 acres, 14 miles south of Carbondale and 4 miles west of Redstone.

Cattle Creek Prescribed Fire, Aspen/Sopris Ranger District (Eagle County) – Up to 2,000 acres 8 miles north of Basalt and 12 miles south of Gypsum.

Cottonwood Creek Prescribed Fire, Colorado River Valley Field Office (Eagle County) – Up to 472 acres, 3 miles northwest of Eagle and 6 miles northeast of Gypsum.

Sheep Gulch Prescribed Fire, BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office (Eagle County) – Up to 238 acres, 4 miles northwest of Gypsum.

Farmer’s Canyon Prescribed Fire, BLM Grand Junction Field Office (Mesa County) – Up to 70 acres, 18 miles south of Grand Junction.

West Divide Prescribed Fire, Rifle Ranger District (Mesa County) – Up to 500 acres, 18 miles south of New Castle and west of Carbondale.

“We will only ignite these prescribed fires if conditions are conducive for safe, effective burns, as well as for good smoke dispersal away from nearby communities,” said Lathan Johnson, a fuels specialist with the fire unit.

This spring, fire officials completed more than 3,600 acres of prescribed burns on BLM and White River National Forest lands. 

“As an interagency unit, we continue to collectively focus on areas where we can reduce fuel loading and improve wildlife habitat,” said Lisa Stoeffler, deputy forest supervisor for the Forest Service. “Prescribed burning is a cost-effective and efficient way to target these areas for long-term benefits.” 

For more information on the prescribed burns, contact Lathan Johnson at 970-640-9165.

27th Street Bridge set to close from Thursday through Monday

The structurally deficient and functionally obsolete 27th Street Bridge in Glenwood Springs has officially reached the end of its life cycle.

“It is going to be a big milestone for the project and the community,” said Bryana Starbuck, 27th Street Bridge Project public information manager.

CLOSURE SCHEDULE

Beginning 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, and lasting through 6 a.m. Monday, Sept. 16, the 27th Street Bridge, South Grand Avenue intersection and Atkinson Trail will close to vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. Additionally, portions of the Roaring Fork River near the construction site will also shut down to river users.

During the 84-hour closure crews will work around the clock to deconstruct the existing bridge in order to slide the newly built one into place.

DETOURS

“The main detours we are talking about are for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, and river users,” Starbuck said.

Eighth Street will serve as the designated detour route for motorists needing to cross the Roaring Fork River whereas pedestrians and cyclists should use the Old Cardiff or 14th Street bridges.

Roaring Fork River users must eddy-out at or before Three Mile Creek or put in farther downstream from the 27th Street Bridge, Starbuck explained.

According to Lt. John Hassell, no significant traffic accidents had occurred on the 27th Street Bridge or South Grand Avenue intersection in the last few months. Additionally, Hassell said that the Glenwood Springs Police Department would station an officer Friday morning at Eighth Street and Midland Avenue to assist motorists through the detour route.

SPECTATORS STAY AWAY

The bridge slide, which will occur during the 84-hour closure, has garnered quite a bit of interest among the community. However, project officials have warned the public to obey all closures and to avoid attempting to see the slide due to safety concerns.

“I know people are pretty excited to see the slide but it is going to be pretty boring,” said Jessica Bowser, assistant city engineer.

According to Bowser, the new traffic bridge will slide into place at a rate of approximately 6 inches an hour.

“The actual slide will take almost a whole day I believe,” Bowser said.

MONDAY MORNING

Should all go according to plan, when the 27th Street Bridge does reopen Monday morning its neighboring pedestrian bridge will remain closed for at least a few more weeks, Starbuck explained.

However, cyclists and pedestrians may utilize the newly slid into place traffic bridge, too — at least until the new pedestrian bridge does open.

“We will just create a pathway on the new traffic bridge for folks to be able to get across on the side of the bridge,” Starbuck said. “It will look similar to what is out there now.”

NEXT STEPS

Although the bridge slide marks a milestone in the 27th Street Bridge Project, it does not mark the end of the project.

“There is still a lot of work to be done,” Bowser said. “We still have a roundabout to construct. We still have landscaping and masonry and the final connections for the utilities to make.”

The entire 27th Street Bridge Project has an anticipated completion date of December 2019.

STAY IN THE KNOW

For the most up-to-date project information residents may sign up for ConeZone email updates by contacting the project team at 27thStreetBridge@gmail.com or by calling or texting (970) 618-5379.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Rifle’s September Construction Fall Update

As fall begins to set in on Rifle and western Garfield County, construction will continue as a number of projects may affect driving and pedestrian traffic throughout the city in the upcoming months.

Centennial Parkway

The Centennial Parkway project is complete. Please pay attention to the new turn lane signals. Because there is opposing traffic using the same turn lane, a mountable median was required to prevent head on accidents. Due to the fact that large trucks and trailers use this road, the straight lanes on Centennial Parkway are on the right and the left lane is for left turns only.

The new Park and Ride is also finished. Notifications will be disseminated beginning this week. Starting on September 9th, the bus pick up will be on Centennial Parkway and the Park and Ride will be in its original location. West Second Street will go back to being a two lane street.

Whiteriver Avenue

Beginning on Sept. 9, improvements will be made to Whiteriver Avenue from First Street to Fourth Street. The first part of the project will replace the wood retaining walls which will necessitate the closure of the sidewalk and street side parking between West Second and West Third streets. The project is also reconstructing the intersection of Third Street and Whiteriver Avenue. This will require road closures and detours.

Palomino Park

The valley pan and 24th Place on East Avenue are being replaced. This will result in closures on both of these streets starting on Sept. 13. Also to be repaired in this same area will be Dakota Court and Fairway Avenue.

Firethorn Drive

Firethorn Drive will be reconstructed between Oct. 14 and Oct. 25. This work will require temporary closures.

Waterline Project at Deerfield Park

The waterline project at Highway 6 is complete. We now have a reliable water source that is capable of providing an additional 1 million gallons per day. A new waterline is being installed from the water tanks above Deerfield Park to the homes below. This will require temporary water shutdowns. If you are going to be affected by one of these shutdowns you will receive notice a minimum of 24 hours in advance.

For updated information on all City matters, please go to our website, www.rifleco.org or our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Eastbound I-70 to be closed Thursday night for test of fire suppression system at Eisenhower Tunnel

FRISCO — Motorists heading to the Front Range on Thursday evening should get an early start as Interstate 70 will be closed overnight near Silverthorne.

The Colorado Department of Transportation will close eastbound I-70 ahead of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel overnight Thursday, Sept. 5, to complete testing of the tunnel’s fixed fire suppression system. The first round of testing on the system was completed in July, and this test will finish the process. According to CDOT, the testing is crucial in ensuring the system is properly working in the event of a fire in the tunnel, and a full closure allows the testing to take place more efficiently.

The closure will begin at Exit 205 at Silverthorne, and eastbound traffic will be detoured over Loveland Pass to the other side of the tunnels. The closure is expected to last from 11 p.m. Thursday to about 6 a.m. Friday.

To stay up to date on road closures and conditions at all times, visit COTrip.org. Drivers also can sign up for customized travel alerts via text and email on CDOT’s website.

I-70 reopens after vehicle fire in Rifle

Update 12:20 PM: Both lanes are now open.

Westbound Interstate 70 is closed west of Rifle due to a vehicle fire near mile marker 85.

Traffic is being diverted onto Highway 6 at the West Rifle exit.

This post will be updated.

Colorado’s seat belt usage rate sees jump from 2018

More Coloradans are buckling up before driving, according to a recent survey by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

In 2019, the state’s seat belt use rate increased by 2%, from 86.3% to 88.3%, the highest rate since record keeping began in 1997. Of note, Colorado still falls short of the national average of 90%. Though, with unbuckled passenger vehicle deaths making up more than half of vehicle deaths in the state last year, every bit helps.

“We are pleased to see a record share of Coloradans buckling — with a meaningful increase of 2% in the past year,” CDOT executive director Shoshana Lew said in a news release. “Buckling your seat belt can be a lifesaving decision, and we encourage both drivers and passengers to stay focused on safety so we can continue to improve over the year to come.”

The survey identifies use rates for different Colorado counties. The highest seat belt use rates tend to be in higher population areas like Denver, Douglas and Arapahoe counties, which all have use rates above 90%. Lower seat belt usage is more commonly reported in the state’s rural counties, like Moffat and Cheyenne that both reported use rates lower than 80%. There was an 89.9% use rate in Summit County, according to the survey.

The survey also dove into what types of drivers were buckling up and where. The highest percentage usage was among SUV (92%) and van (90.1%) drivers, while the lowest percentage usage was among commercial vehicles (75.8%) and pickup trucks (82.6%). The survey also revealed that drivers are more wiling to use seat belts while going faster on highways than on local roads.

The annual seat belt survey is required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is conducted by trained observers collecting data at 770 sites across 31 counties in Colorado.

“This annual survey provides critical insight to the seat belt use habits across the state and helps us know which counties need more focus and education,” said Col. Matthew Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “Our goal is to bring both the rural and urban county use numbers closer together to increase Colorado’s overall seat belt use and lower passenger vehicle fatalities.”

Blown tires causes early morning traffic on I-70 eastbound near Canyon Creek

At approximately 7:28 a.m. Colorado State Patrol received a call that a VW sedan had blown its tires and was blocking one eastbound lane along Interstate 70 at mile marker 111 east of Canyon Creek.

According to Colorado State Patrol Trooper Lewis, both lanes reopened to traffic at 8:12 p.m.

No injuries were reported.

Glenwood-area wildfire burned close to 20 acres; now 100% under control

Glenwood Springs fire crews have secured the perimeter of the Sunrise Court Fire near the city airport, and the fire was declared 100% under control as of Thursday afternoon. 

“All resources have been released except for one wildland engine and five Glenwood Springs firefighters,” according to the latest fire information issued by the city.

A cause for the fire has not been determined, according to the release.

The fire broke out on a hillside south of the airport and below the Four Mile Ranch subdivision around 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, and had burned 19.7 acres by Thursday morning.

The subdivision was evacuated initially as the flames shot up the hill and came close to some houses on the eastern fringe.

Several homes were threatened, but none were lost. Residents were allowed to return to their homes around 7 p.m.

“Hot spots in the interior of the fire are anticipated, and firefighters will continue to extinguish those as needed,” according to the Thursday update. The Glenwood Springs Fire Department will continue to patrol and monitor the fire over the next few days.

Prehm Ranch Road below the burn area will remain closed until further notice due to public safety concerns over falling rocks below the burn scar. Several rocks that came down onto the road during the fire Wednesday have been removed, but the danger remains, fire department officials said.

Cool temperatures through the night helped calm the fire, and containment was declared at 7 a.m. Thursday.

Throughout midday Thursday, four wildland engines, a tender, and 27 firefighters from the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District, Colorado River Fire Rescue, Grand Valley Fire Department, and Roaring Fork Fire Rescue were working the perimeter.

The fire remains under investigation by the Garfield County Fire Investigation Response Team.

Fire danger is high

Meanwhile, fire officials with the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire and Aviation Management Unit are urging caution through the Labor Day holiday weekend as conditions continue to dry in western Colorado. 

“While conditions across the area have not reached the critical point to warrant fire restrictions, people need to be aware that fire danger is currently high,” UCR Fire Management Officer Rob Berger said on Wednesday.

“We are starting to see more human caused fires, and we are reminding people to be thoughtful as they enjoy the outdoors this weekend.”  

The Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest and Summit County are under fire restrictions, but not other areas of the Forest. Caution with campfires is being urged, and fireworks are always prohibited on forest lands.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo also said in a Thursday press release that Roaring Fork Valley fire officials are closely monitoring conditions and coordinating with regional and federal fire agencies. 

According to the National Weather Service forecast, a very slight chance of rain on Friday is expected to be accompanied by daytime temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s through the holiday weekend.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Teraha Mattorano of Carbondale ID’d as woman killed in crash on Frying Pan Road

The victim of Tuesday morning’s single-vehicle crash on Frying Pan Road was Teraha Mattorano, 42, of Carbondale, according to the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office.

The cause and manner of Mattorano’s death is pending completion of an autopsy, the Coroner’s Office said Wednesday.

Mattorano was killed when the SUV she was driving went off the road and struck a tree, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

She was wearing a seat belt, authorities said. The accident occurred between mile markers 12 and 13. Authorities were alerted at 8:42 a.m.

Glenwood’s $65,900 ‘pothole trailer’ gets to work on city’s bumpy streets

The city of Glenwood Springs has a new tool in its arsenal to combat its persistent pothole problem: a pothole trailer.

Purchased earlier this year for $65,900, the Streets Department already has put the four-ton, year-round operational trailer to work from Midland Avenue to bike paths along U.S. Highway 6.

“We didn’t have any real effective way for the guys to carry around all the needed items for removing, replacing and filling a pothole correctly,” Public Works Director Matthew Langhorst said. “We can have an eight- to 10-hour workday and not have to worry about the hot mix cooling off after an hour and it being unusable.”

The pothole trailer keeps hot mix asphalt hot and cold mix warm and recycles chunk asphalt and asphalt millings into hot mix asphalt. The trailer also comes equipped with an air compressor for asphalt removal and a heated tack sprayer – a vital bonding agent that allows asphalt to stick together.

In addition to repairing potholes on Midland and smoothing out two to three inch wide cracks along the bike path, the pothole trailer has been utilized along Bennett, Blake, Palmer and Pitkin avenues ahead of its chip-and-seal work.

According to Langhorst, throughout September the trailer will spend another lengthy duration back on Midland, particularly from 27th to Eighth streets.

“That section of Midland is falling apart slowly,” said Langhorst. “But, that pothole trailer will go all over town.”

The trailer has the capability of hauling 4 tons of hot mix asphalt and so far the Streets Department has produced more than 175 tons of asphalt in house.

Langhorst called the current pothole trailer “a test trailer” citing how there were bigger options available for purchase.

According to Langhorst, though, the city does not have the manpower necessary to haul around two pothole trailers.

“This is a good starter trailer for us to learn it, find out what we like about it, what we don’t like about it and then hopefully in few years maybe upsize the trailer,” Langhorst said. “It’s a good investment for us. … It was not inexpensive, but it is well worth it.”

mabennett@postindependent.com