Crews halt 20-acre wildfire near Sylvan Lake south of Eagle
Eagle Valley Enterprise
EAGLE — A wildfire Wednesday consumed approximately 20 acres above and behind Sylvan Lake south of Eagle but crews by mid-evening had halted its spread and were working toward containment.
The fire — officially called the Red Table Fire — is located in the Anton Cabin Springs Drainage, a remote area southwest of Sylvan Lake and southeast of LEDE Reservoir. The fire is located approximately 12 miles south of Eagle as the crow flies and 17-19 miles from Eagle by road.
Aerial response resumed at 8 a.m. Thursday with one Type II helicopter and other aircraft on standby, the White River National Forest said in an update.
Fire crews Thursday were focused on suppression and stopping fire spread to the north toward Sylvan Lake. Efforts also were focused on protecting an electrical transmission line adjacent to the fire. The transmission line had been de-energized but was still active with less charge.
According to Greater Eagle Fire Department Chief Kurt Vogel, the fire was first reported shortly after noon and local fire crews were dispatched to the site between 12:30 and 1 p.m.
“The park rangers (at Sylvan Lake State Park) were the ones who first saw the smoke,” said Vogel.
Vogel said initial reports estimated the size of the fire at 1.5 acres and local crews from Eagle and Gypsum initially went out to battle the wildfire.
“Then the fire weather changed and we weren’t comfortable with having people up there,” said Vogel.
By midafternoon, the U.S. Forest Service had assumed control of the fight. Air tankers from Grand Junction were called in and made several slurry drops by 4 p.m.
According to the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit, after receiving a report of smoke and flames in the area, dispatch immediately launched initial air attack and one engine.
One engine and one helicopter arrived by 3:30 p.m. and two Type 2 hand crews were en route to the fire. Three heavy air tankers were dispatched to the area along with smaller, two-seat planes. Eight smoke jumpers were dispatched out of Grand Junction. One Type 1 Hand Crew also was dispatched.
An evening update said a flight overnight would produce infrared images and mapping for assessment in the morning.
Hot, dry and windy conditions contributed to increased fire danger, and red flag warnings have been present in the area throughout the week and are expected to persist.
Campers warned, not evacuated
Campers at Sylvan Lake were warned that they might be evacuated from the area, but prevailing winds pushed the fire away from the lake camping area. Shortly after 3:30 p.m. crews from Colorado Parks and Wildlife shut down vehicle access to Sylvan Lake. People who had already set up campsites in the area were allowed to return to their belongings but other vehicles were turned back at the Y intersection at the fork of East Brush Creek and West Brush Creek.
Emergency personnel plan to spend the night in the area and approximately 100 people from several jurisdictions including the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Greater Eagle Fire and Gypsum Fire planned to bed down at one of the day use areas at Sylvan Lake to monitor the fire overnight.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife said Wednesday evening that all day-use areas at or near the lake would be closed until further notice. It said visitors may not use the lake or areas around the lake for recreation, including boating, fishing or hiking on trails surrounding the lake.
All areas north of the lake, including campgrounds, were to remain open to day-use only. Camping and cabins in areas away from the lake remain open, as well as the park’s visitor center.
Drones were banned in the area during the firefighting effort.
Anyone with camping reservations in the next few days are advised to call the Sylvan Lake State Park office for details at 970-328-2021. If necessary, cancellations can be made through the central reservations office by calling 800-678-2267.
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Though it won’t bring major changes for most Garfield County businesses, local public health officials were notified Thursday that the county will move to the less-restrictive Level Blue, effective first thing Friday.