Crews work to contain Grizzly Creek Fire on western flank by No Name, other key areas around perimeter
Crews working to contain the Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon made gains late Monday and Tuesday, keeping the fire from spreading closer to Glenwood Springs and populated areas east of the canyon.
One major accomplishment was a successful “burnout” operation on the east side of No Name Creek on Monday evening, aimed at reducing the risk of spot fires west of the creek and potential spread of the fire toward Iron Mountain and the north Glenwood area.
“Last night, we had a fire crew with pumps and hoses to keep the fire from crossing the creek,” Jeff Surber, Operations Section Chief for the Great Basin Team 1 firefighting unit said during a Tuesday evening community update live-streamed via the Grizzly Creek Fire Facebook page.
Fire was intentionally started and controlled just before dusk to burn off a section of the east side of the creek drainage that had not yet burned, he explained. The method is used to prevent fire from burning out of control and potentially spotting to the other side.
Dozer lines were also constructed on Iron Mountain below the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, and retardant was air-dropped along the ridge on the west side of No Name Creek to serve as extra protection.
Similar containment methods have been in progress all around the perimeter, included near the evacuated areas on Lookout Mountain and in upper Spring Valley on the south and just above Glenwood Springs, Surber explained.
Efforts are also focused on the north and northeast sides of the fire, and to the southeast by Bair Ranch, where several cabins are of concern, he said.
“We did have a great weather day, with very little wind and some new vegetation types, which gives us the opportunity to really go after this fire (and) build fire lines,” Surber said.
Still, as of Tuesday afternoon, the fire was at 0% containment and had grown to more than 27,000 acres, according to fire managers.
Evacuation orders were lifted for some areas north of Interstate 70 and west of Colorado River Road to Coffee Pot Road. That included Siloam Springs, Stephens Drive, Sweetwater and the lower Colorado River Road, according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. Those areas are now on pre-evacuation alert.
Evacuation orders remained in place Tuesday night for No Name, Lookout Mountain, Homestead Estates, Bair Ranch, High Aspen Ranch, Coulter Creek, Cottonwood Pass and Spring Valley Ranch.
I-70 through Glenwood Canyon also remains closed through Glenwood Canyon, with no scheduled reopening.
“We are doing our most diligent, aggressive work to get that open,” Incident Commander Marty Adell said during the community update.
But, the ultimate decision comes down to making sure fire activity in the canyon itself has subsided and the area isn’t needed for firefighting operations. Xcel Energy will also need unrestricted access to repair a power line that burned, which would need to happen while the highway is still closed, fire officials said.
After that, the Colorado Department of Transportation will need to work with law enforcement to make sure it’s safe to reopen the roadway, they said.
Adell assured the listening audience on Facebook that Glenwood Canyon is not a barren wasteland.
“There is fire in there, and some areas have been charred,” he said. “But there are also areas with green brush, and the river is unaffected. These ecosystems are very fire adaptive, and you will soon see regeneration of grasses, shrubs and trees.”
Smokey conditions can be expected to continue in the coming days, said William Basye, air resource advisor on the Grizzly Creek Fire. Smoke levels are expected to be worse in the morning through midday in the Glenwood Springs and Roaring Fork Valley areas, and during the afternoon and evening east of the fire area in Eagle County, he said.
Pine Gulch Fire update
Meanwhile, the Pine Gulch Fire burning on the Garfield-Mesa County line north and west of DeBeque had grown to nearly 88,000 acres as of Tuesday and was still just 7% contained.
New pre-evacuation alerts were sent out on the northwest corner of the fire, after a spot fire quickly grew in that direction, according to a Tuesday afternoon press release from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.
A pre-evacuation order has been issued for the areas of County Road 205, Kimball Mountain Road and CR 256 in between Kimball Mountain Road and Browns Point, according to the release.
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Federal lands in and around the Roaring Fork Valley will be under a Stage 1 fire restrictions starting Friday, officials with the White River National Forest and Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday morning.