Grizzly Lake Fire crews made headway over weekend, containment up to 31%
Factors to reopening Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon remain on track “in the coming days” as firefighters continued Sunday to make progress on containing the Grizzly Creek Fire, which has been burning for two weeks east of Glenwood Springs.
The Colorado Department of Transportation officials over the weekend would not give an exact date to open, but the prediction late last week of the coming days, not weeks, holds true, they said. That timetable is with the caveat there are no drastic changes in the fire’s movement or the weather.
And after it does open, CDOT officials are concerned about future weather events and how those could affect closing the canyon in the near future. Even a quarter inch of rain could cause issues after the road opens, officials have said.
“If there’s rain, we might have a safety closure,” CDOT Region 3 communications manager Elise Thatcher said Sunday in a phone interview. “So, keeping an eye on the forecast is the thing to do for travelers. … We’re very excited for a reopening, but also keep in mind that we’re going to have safety closures in the short-term future due to weather.”
The 24-mile stretch of the interstate has been closed for two weeks since the Grizzly Creek Fire started in the median of the highway Aug. 10. Since then, it has burned more than 30,000 acres in and above the canyon.
The two-week shutdown is thought to be the longest in the canyon’s history.
When the road reopens, a roughly 7-mile section will continue to be head-to-head on the eastbound deck, as the construction project in the westbound lanes remains in place. Most of the rockfall cleanup work also is taking place in the westbound lanes, CDOT northwest regional director Mike Goolsby said Saturday during a community meeting.
He said Xcel Energy continues to repair power lines in and above the canyon, and the upper tier of the interstate will be used to help move firefighters to either side of the fire.
“Not a lot of things are happening to the eastbound currently,” he said. “(The upper tier) also gives us to the opportunity to move fire crews quickly through the canyon not impacting traffic.”
Fire crews took advantage of the cooler weather and calmer winds over the weekend to build and strengthen fire lines.
As of Sunday night, containment on the Grizzly Creek Fire is at 31%, which is up from the 11% reported Friday morning going into the weekend, according to fire operations spokesman Brian Scott. Sunday evening’s update from the incident command team has the overall burn area at 30,362 acres.
Fire crews have completed a containment line from Coffee Pot to Bair Ranch to I-70 on the eastern side of the fire. Crews worked Sunday on the north and southwest sides to build more bulldozer and containment lines, operations section chief Jeff Suber said in an update Sunday afternoon.
As well, a crew of five firefighters went up Sunday to Hanging Lake to put out hot spots near the trail and around the lake, Suber said.
Some pockets of heavy fuels continue to burn in the Spruce Ridge area farther south on the eastern flank, officials said Sunday in an 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.”
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.
“We’re enjoying some success,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said Saturday in a community meeting. “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.
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 and 10 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office announced Sunday night the lifting of pre-evacuation orders for the Sweetwater Road, Dotsero and Lower Colorado River Road areas.
“It’s imperative for everyone to continue to be vigilant and adhere to the fire restrictions in the county,” Sheriff James Van Beek said in a news release Sunday night. “We know from our coordination with the Grizzly Creek Fire command that this fire remains active in many places and that we’ll continue to see smoke in the area for quite some time. We can’t let our guard down with how tinderbox dry the conditions are in our county.”
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