WB I-70 reopened after wildland fire near Avon forces brief closure | PostIndependent.com

WB I-70 reopened after wildland fire near Avon forces brief closure

Staff reports
A wildland fire in Avon caused an I-70 closure Monday afternoon.
Photo courtesy Ivan Ricardez

A wildland fire in Avon closed Interstate 70 in both directions at mile marker 167 on the afternoon of Monday, June 14.

According to witnesses, there were multiple spot fires along the roadway. The fires were quickly extinguished, and the interstate reopened.

Last week, an 8-acre wildfire closed the eastbound lanes of I-70 near Dillon. That fire is now 100% contained. While the cause of the fire is still being investigated, roadside fires are often the result the dragging chains or discarded cigarettes.

The fire danger in Summit County increased to very high as temperatures around western Colorado are smashing records this week, and there isn’t much relief in either the short-term forecast or long-term outlook for summer, said Michael Charnick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“We’re near record level for pretty much all of our major towns across western Colorado,” Charnick said. “That’s going be continuing (Monday, Tuesday) and Wednesday.”

Some isolated clouds may make an appearance in the mountains, Charnick said, but those clouds aren’t forecast to bring any rain.

Looking longer out, the trends continue to indicate that this summer will be very similar to last summer with a drier-than-normal forecast and slightly above-normal temperatures.

Looking at the current drought conditions for Eagle County, only a small sliver representing the southeast corner of the county is in severe drought, which is marked by low snowpack, low surface water levels and decreased streamflows.

The largest swath of the county — which includes Vail all the way down to Eagle — is in extreme drought, with conditions ripe for large fires and water restrictions.

Gypsum and the rest of the western end of the county are in exceptional drought conditions, the highest classification on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“Exceptional drought is still very much alive and well in the West,” Charnick said. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t really look like any sort of major system is on the horizon.”

Drought conditions look better in Summit County, where the far eastern portion is no longer under any level of drought. The reminder of the county remains abnormally dry or in moderate to severe drought.

The towns of Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne have implemented Stage 1 fire restrictions, which prohibit fires outside of fire rings in designated campsites. Fires on private property require a permit from a local fire district. The Summit Board of County Commissioners is expected to discuss fire restrictions at its meeting Tuesday, June 15. The county government and U.S. Forest Service would work in concert to implement fire restrictions on unincorporated areas of the county and in the White River National Forest.

This story will be updated.

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