Continued dry, windy weather increases Garfield County fire concerns
As warm, windy and dry weather persists into early autumn, the fire danger in Garfield County and surrounding areas continues to increase.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction on Monday issued a red flag fire weather warning through Tuesday for the Colorado River headwaters region, including Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties.
The forecast calls for winds gusting up to 35 mph and low relative humidity, and little to no precipitation continuing into the middle part of this week.
“It’s scary,” Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson said. “We’re all watching closely … the conditions are at a point where, if a fire starts, it could spread pretty rapidly.”
David Boyd, spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management area field office, said the current fire danger is similar to midsummer.
“When we compare fuel moisture/fire danger with May and June of this year, it’s drier with higher fire danger now,” Boyd said.
Higher-elevation timber in particular has the highest danger among fuel types, he added.
“It takes longer for timber to dry out, and conversely it takes longer to respond to moisture,” Boyd said. “Dry, windy days definitely increase fire danger now, just like summer.”
Currently, there are no restrictions for Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties, but Summit County and the Dillon Ranger District remain in Stage 1 restrictions, which were imposed in early September.
The BLM, Forest Service and area fire district officials will have their weekly fire restriction coordination call on Tuesday to further assess the situation, and determine whether fire restrictions may be necessary.
Weekend winds and warm temperatures also increased the size of the Granite Lake Fire, which is burning in a remote area of the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness southeast of Meredith and above Ruedi Reservoir.
As of Monday afternoon, the fire had grown to 695 acres and is actively burning in heavy patches of downed timber and woody debris created by avalanche paths.
In response, the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District has issued an emergency closure of Forest Road 504 into the South Fork of the Fryingpan and the South Fork Pass Trail 1940. The closure begins Tuesday.
Firefighters continue to monitor the fire from the air and on the ground, and two engines are patrolling the Fryingpan Valley area.
“We are continuing to remind people to be careful with fire,” Boyd added. “Don’t let your guard down because the nights are cold.”
For campers, morning warming fires should be completely out before leaving camp. Public lands users should also avoid target shooting or parking in dry grass, dragging vehicle chains and discarding cigarettes, he said.
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Roaring Fork Schools volunteers who have already completed a comparable background check through an approved entity would be good to go.