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Blaze 30 percent contained

Donna Daniels
Staff Writer

Firefighters continued to gain control of the Spring Creek Fire above New Castle Tuesday.

The fire was at about 7,900 acres and was 30 percent contained.

“We’re having a very successful day and we’ve got plans for another one tomorrow,” fire spokesman Bud Ivey said Tuesday.

To date, the cost of fire suppression stands at $1.8 million. A total of 339 firefighters and support crew members are working the fire. Five helicopters, four bulldozers, three water tenders and seven engines are also on the scene.

The fire has resulted in two significant but not life-threatening injuries for firefighters – a cut from a Pulaski firefighting handtool and a twisted knee that will require surgery.

Fire line constructed Monday held through Tuesday. The southern portion of the fire line “was fairly cold” Tuesday, incident commander Joe Hartman said. Engines stationed at homes in East and Main Elk creeks were removed, as the fire was no longer considered a threat.

Crews concentrated their efforts on the east side of the fire, which has been making its way towards Canyon Creek.

More fire line, both hand- and dozer-built, was constructed around open meadows that run up to the west edge of Canyon Creek. That area will be back-burned over the next two days to stop the fire in its tracks.

“That will pretty well prevent it from getting down into Canyon Creek,” Hartman said.

He also had good news about the condition of the East Elk Creek watershed, which provides New Castle with its drinking water.

“The area is looking a lot better than we’d hoped,” he said.

Although the fire burned most of the vegetation in parts of the creek, much of it burned in a mosaic pattern, leaving enough plant cover to act as a filter for the ash and silt that will wash downstream when the rains begin.

“That’s the best thing we could have in a wildfire,” Hartman said.

Coal Seam Fire

Work also continues on the Coal Seam Fire, which remains 90 percent contained. Burned trees are still smoldering, and occasional pockets of unburned spruce and fir are torching, according to Tuesday’s fire information update.

Fifty-two firefighters and support personnel remain on the fire.

Resources, which have been spread thin by the numerous wildfires burning in Colorado over the past three weeks, are being shared between the two fire teams on Coal Seam and Spring Creek. These include helicopter support and aerial mapping, as well as other fire specialists.

Also Tuesday, the White River National Forest lifted a closure on the Grizzly Creek Trail in Glenwood Canyon. The closure had been imposed for safety reasons connected with the Coal Seam Fire.

The nearby No Name Trail remains closed, and other trail and road closures resulting from the Coal Seam and Spring Creek fires also are still in effect.

Mudslide warning

Weather conditions continued to be hot and dry Tuesday, with temperatures in the mid-90s and relative humidity in the low single digits.

Fire meteorologists called for wet thunderstorms in the area on Thursday and Friday with a chance of a 0.10 inch of rain.

“Mudslide and flood risks will be very high from Thursday through Sunday due to these monsoon-type thunderstorms,” the fire update said.

An advisory from the Garfield County sheriff said evacuation information has been provided to residents of Mitchell Creek. Signs will be erected on Mitchell Creek Road warning of limited access to local residents.

A phone tree has also been established by which neighbors can spread the word about an impending evacuation. Emergency agencies will also contact residents in the event of an evacuation.

The National Weather Service is also prepared to use its emergency alert system to notify the public via radio and television.

Staff Writer Dennis Webb contributed to this report.


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