FRIDAY FIRE UPDATES: Facebook live community meeting reminder; updated Hanging Lake statement from fire officials
UPDATE 3:30 p.m. Friday — REMINDER: Grizzly Creek Fire community meeting, 6 p.m. tonight. The Grizzly Creek Fire Team will host a virtual FaceBook live community meeting tonight (also live streamed from the Garfield County home page in English and in Spanish, and via the Post Independent’s Facebook page for those listening in English).
To view the meeting from the Garfield County home page, click on links in the red box above the fire information. The community is invited to join in the discussion and ask questions of the fire team and local officials on Facebook.
Also, this statement for fire incident command a short time ago:
“We are getting a lot of questions about Hanging Lake this morning. We know the fire moved through that area. We are working with Forest officials to assess to what extent Hanging Lake was impacted. We are waiting for the smoke to clear to assess from the air. We are not able to access from the ground via the trail because of fire activity. When we have more information, we will share it.”
UPDATE 2 p.m. Friday — The American Red Cross of Colorado has opened an evacuation center at Battle Mountain High school in Edwards to assist residents who have been evacuated because of the Grizzly Creek Fire, according to the fire command center. Red Cross volunteers are ready to accommodate anyone needing information or other assistance. They will also have access to emergency supplies and support.
UPDATE 8 a.m. Friday — The Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon made a major run late Thursday night, more than doubling in size to 13,441 acres (revised after a mapping flyover) with new areas of fire spread on the east and northeast sides of the canyon.
White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams confirmed in a Friday morning press conference that the fire has burned in the area of Hanging Lake, the popular visitor attraction that now operates on a permit system.
“Right now we don’t know the disposition of Hanging Lake,” Fitzwilliams said in the press conference also attended by Gov. Jared Polis. “We know there was fire around it. We hope to get up and take a look at it today, and as soon as we find out we will let you know.”
Added incident PIO Brian Scott in a separate interview, “It is certainly a concern. Sometimes, fires can go so fast that it may not have caused much damage. But we just don’t know until we can get in there.”
Scott acknowledged that another concern would be fire runoff eventually getting into the fragile lake ecosystem. Hanging Lake is “a large and rare example of a travertine deposition lake and hanging garden plant community,” the Forest Service noted in its 2018 decision to implement a fee-based hiking system to control the number of daily visitors on the rugged 2-mile trail up to the lake.
“Once the fire danger has passed, we can get in there and assess the opportunities to put in some erosion control abatement,” Scott said. “With that being such a valuable resource, if we can prevent damage like that we will take those measures.”
Magnitude of fire by size
By comparison in terms of fire size, the Grizzly Creek Fire is now about 800 acres larger than the 2018 Lake Christine Fire on Basalt Mountain, which burned 12,588 acres.
Gov. Polis said reopening Interstate 70 would not happen before the weekend.
“The best realistic case would be two to three days,” Polis said. “But it’s really a question of when it’s no longer right on the highway.”
According to the latest morning update from incident command in Gypsum, “operations staff flew the fire late yesterday afternoon to access the northern area of the fire where the fire was the most active. The terrain and fuels in the northeast portion of the fire made access difficult for firefighters north of Interstate 70. The fire pushed east and went into Bair Ranch where evacuations were made.”
New maps show the most recent fire progression Thursday night into Friday morning.
Here’s the latest from incident command: This is the update for Friday, Aug. 14, 2020 for the 13,441 acre Grizzly Creek Fire.
Current Situation: Yesterday the fire experienced rapid and erratic growth, challenging firefighters and prompting additional evacuations. The combination of dry vegetation, steep terrain, and the Red Flag conditions of hot, dry weather and gusty winds have continued to drive fire growth.
On Thursday, the fire grew rapidly to the east towards Bair Ranch and southeast up Devil’s Hole Canyon. This resulted in an increase of acreage from 6,251 to 13,441 acres as of 10 p.m. Thursday when the fire was mapped.
Firefighters were successful in keeping the fire held in the bottom of the No Name Drainage. Today the fire will continue to be active as weather conditions remain hot and dry.
Firefighting efforts will include structure protection in the areas of Spring Valley, High Aspen and Lookout Mountain, and continued structure protection efforts in the I-70 corridor from No Name to Shoshone Power Station, Bair Ranch and Dotsero.
Helicopters will have access to refill at a portable fire-retardant mixing station and tank, which is being set up on I-70 near No Name.
An additional helibase has been established at the Glenwood Springs Airport, which is now closed to regular air traffic.
Daily operations video updates will be posted on the Grizzly Creek Fire facebook page. Maps and other information will also be posted on inciweb at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6942/.
Evacuations: Residents in communities around the Grizzly Creek Fire should stay aware of the fire’s dynamic changing conditions. Anytime evacuation notices change or areas move into pre-evacuation status, the information will be shared at the Garfield County website at http://www.Garfield-county.com and Eagle County at http://www.eaglecounty.us/emergency, as well as on official FaceBook accounts and local radio stations.
Residents are strongly encouraged to sign up for updates from their respective counties. In Garfield County, go to the Garfield County website and sign up for notifications at garco911.com.
For residents of Eagle County, go to http://www.ecalert.org to sign up for notifications.
Road Closures: I-70 continues to be closed between Glenwood Springs and Gypsum, with no estimated time for reopening. Forest Service Road 400, Eagle-Thomasville Road, is closed due to excessive traffic and accidents resulting from drivers attempting to use this primarily dirt road as an alternate to the I-70 closure. Cottonwood Pass Road in Garfield and Eagle counties and Independence Pass are closed.
Coffee Pot Road, Transfer Trail and Clinetop Mesa roads and areas of the Flattops accessed by those roads are also closed, as well as many surrounding White River National Forest and BLM roads.
For more information regarding road closures: https://www.codot.gov/travel
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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