Aug. 23 Grizzly Creek Fire updates: Crews make gains on containment, prepare for ‘active fire behavior’ Sunday
UPDATED AT 1:45 p.m.: After making good gains the past few days on containing the Grizzly Creek Fire burning east of Glenwood Springs, officials said Sunday morning they are preparing for “active fire behavior” as more hot, dry weather continues.
The fire, which started two weeks ago and has burned 30,362 acres, is 30% contained, fire officials said Sunday morning. This includes securing a line on the east side of the fire and is up from 11% containment reported Friday morning.
“With more hot and dry weather in store for today, firefighters can expect active fire behavior. Burnout operations will continue near Spruce Ridge and to the south of Bair Ranch,” officials posted at 10 a.m. on the Grizzly Creek Fire Facebook page. “Since the potential for fire growth remains, crews will monitor hot spots from the air and ground. Crews are conducting mop up and patrol along contained fire line to minimize the risk of escape.”
On Saturday, fire crews completed a containment line from Coffee Pot to Bair Ranch to I-70 on the eastern side of the fire. Some pockets of heavy fuels continue to burn in the Spruce Ridge area further south on the eastern flank, officials said in the Sunday update.
To the south, the fire was held up Saturday in aspen groves and sage brush is smoldering, and on the western flank, firefighters “established direct line in steeper portions of Bear Creek and reinforced established containment lines,” the update says.
There are 15 hand crews, 11 bulldozers and other logging equipment part of the more than 800-person team currently working on the Grizzly Creek Fire.
Similar to Saturday, air quality Sunday will be in the moderate to hazardous range in much of the Roaring Fork Valley, and in the Eagle and Glenwood Springs area those considered part of a “sensitive group” should avoid prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion, fire managers advise.
The status of reopening Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon remains on track for sometime this week, a Colorado Department of Transportation official reiterated Saturday. The agency’s executive director said on Thursday that it would be within a week.
Cottonwood Pass reopened Sunday to local passenger vehicle traffic only. Local traffic trips allowed include travel to/from work or school; medical, dental or veterinary appointments; and other essential businesses, as previously reported.
Travelers should be prepared to show proof of their need to travel, and construction and delivery traffic must make a reservation for times between 8-10 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
During a community meeting Saturday night, officials said the speed of the Grizzly Creek Fire has been substantially reduced over the past few days.
“We’re enjoying some success,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said. “But we’re kind of moving into another phase of the fire.”
Fitzwilliams also said the “craziness of the initial days is gone and giving way to the “grind” of the firefight. This week’s work will be focused on tying up each area of the fire as a new management team takes over.
The Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1, which assumed command of the Grizzly Creek firefighting efforts on Aug. 13, will hand over operations to the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team midweek.
Like Great Basin, the Alaska team is also a top-tier response team, known as a “Type 1” team. There are currently 16 national Type-1 incident management teams operating in the U.S.
“We generally go a 14-day tour,” said Marty Adell with the Great Basin team on Saturday.
The next Grizzly Creek Fire community meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. on the Grizzly Creek Fire Facebook page; viewers will have a chance to hear from the incident commander for the new Alaska team at that meeting.
“We will have a close-out Wednesday morning, the 26th, and at that point we will travel home for a couple days off,” Adell said Saturday.
Pine Gulch Fire update
The Pine Gulch Fire burning north and west of DeBeque on the Garfield-Mesa county line was 129,715 acres and 19% contained on Sunday.
“Active fire behavior continues due to historically dry conditions and receptive fuels,” the Sunday morning fire report says. “Excessive heat warnings continue throughout western and central Colorado, with a high temps in the Grand Valley approaching 100 degrees. Possible thunderstorms developing in eastern Utah today will increase likelihood of outflow winds.
“Smoke will continue Sunday morning across portions of central and western Colorado especially in the Grand Valley, including Loma, Fruita and Grand Junction.”