Scattered showers provide assist on Sylvan Fire
Cooling temperatures over the next few days should allow crews to box the fire in
Location: Eagle County, White River National Forest in Sylvan Lake State Park, 16 miles south of Eagle
Size: 3,752 acres
Cause: Suspected lightning, still under investigation
Date of Ignition: June 20 around 3:15 PM
Firefighting Personnel: 200 and counting
9 p.m. update: As if on cue, a good, wetting rain fell on Eagle and the Sylvan Fire on Thursday night around 7 p.m. Scattered rain showers, cooler temperatures and cloud cover on Thursday provided the 200 personnel working the Sylvan Fire with an assist as the fire’s growth slowed considerably.
A Type 1 Incident Management Team took over management of the fire on Thursday morning.
“The weather has been helping us,” said David Boyd, public affairs officer for the White River National Forest. The Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team brings more resources and more capacity to tackle the fire, which was still burning on 3,752 acres as of 9 p.m. Thursday night, or nearly 5.86 square miles.
According to Operations Section Chief Rob Powell in a Facebook Live update Thursday morning, 200 people have now been assigned to the fire with more coming in as well as four helicopters.
However, resources, both nationally and regionally, are stretched thin though according to Powell.
“Resources nationally, even though it’s still June, are extremely short,” Powell said. ”Most of our hotshot crews in the region, all of them are assigned to fires in our region. Aircraft is short. This is something we’ll have to deal with throughout the summer.“
The fire began on Sunday afternoon and quickly escalated to the level of a wildland blaze which warrants the large capacity available from a Type 1 team.
“The Type 1 team, they kinda come in with their own city,” Sheriff James van Beek said on Wednesday evening, during a community briefing. “Watch out for the trucks, keep the kids away, there’s going to be a lot of extra traffic moving, so we’re asking everyone to be extremely cautious.”
Aided by weather
With the cooler weather here to stay for the next few days, Boyd said it will allow the teams to begin working on the “critical pieces” of the fire and fight “right up against what’s burning.”
This includes the area where the fire burned down to Sylvan Lake on Tuesday as well as the extreme south side where the crews will attempt to keep the fire from the Frying Pan drainage area.
The weather has allowed crews to moderate the fire activity where it crossed the Forest Road 400 (West Brush Creek Road) near Crooked Creek Pass.
Crews were able to construct direct fireline around the 20-30 acres that crossed FSR 400 (West Brush Creek Road) on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, as well as the approximate 100 acres that crossed the powerline road and burned to Sylvan Lake on Tuesday, Boyd said.
Thursday, crews strengthened these lines along the road.
With this weather expected to continue over the next few days, the crews will be doing all they can to “box it in,” Boyd said.
This includes finding places where the crews can hold the fire, using existing roads and natural features — such as meadows and rocky slopes — as firelines.
Boyd was careful to note that after these cooler days, the area is expecting hotter and dryer days, bringing about more fire activity and more smoke. “This will take time,” he said. “This fire is going to be here for a while as we’re boxing it in, there’s a lot of timber that will still burn.”
Powell echoed this sentiment on Thursday morning, expecting success over the next few days while remaining cautious about the fire.
“ It’s not normal what we’re seeing any more,” Powell said, referring to the increasing wildfire danger over the past few years. “We have to plan for a bigger event; we’re taking advantage of the weather and the resources we have to engage the fire direct, but also looking at farther out options to get established.”
As with all Eagle County emergencies, the community is coming together to support the first responders fighting the Sylvan Fire.
The Eagle Valley Community Foundation is currently rallying resources, including food, for the firefighters as they continue to arrive in Eagle County. As part of its Community Market program, the foundation is supplying snacks and meals for the fighters with the help of local restaurants and the local MIRA bus.
For Friday morning, Grand Avenue Grill is preparing 400 servings of eggs, bacon, fruit and waffles for the firefighters.
The foundation is also putting together a relief fund for the firefighters to help them get the resources they need. Donations can be made at eaglevalleycf.org.
According to Powell, the firefighting crews are setting up an operating base just north of Sylvan Lake. This is where many of the meals will be delivered to the crews.
The local Red Cross and Salvation Army are also helping to provide support right now.
Dan Smith, with the Vail Valley Salvation Army, has been on the scene since Sunday in his 4-wheel drive canteen set-up, providing meals on site for the firefighters. Since Sunday, Smith, with the help of 20 volunteers throughout the week, has served 2,015 meals — which is already about half of the number of meals the canteen served all of last year during emergencies.
“It’s an art form,” Smith said. “They’ve had a terrible day and we like to be a highlight.”
Friday, Smith and his canteen will be clearing out to allow for other community organizations to provide meals. However, you can continue to support the Vail Valley Salvation Army as they provide require volunteers and resources for future efforts with the fire. Smith also noted that the local Salvation Army is always looking for large commercial kitchens to provide meals during emergencies.
For more information on how to support or volunteer to help the local Salvation Army, call 970-748-0704.
All the info you need
There is a new Facebook page, Sylvan Fire Information, where updates will be provided.
A virtual community meeting will be held on the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page at 6 p.m. Friday.
A pre-evacuation order has been issued for Gypsum Creek Road past mile marker 6, Frost Creek, Salt Creek and Bruce Creek.
People in these areas may be asked to evacuate if the fire worsens.
Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for the areas of Hat Creek, Yeoman State Park, and Fulford.
Those who have immediate needs for relocating livestock should call 970-379-7731. Now is the time to prepare to leave and consider precautionary movement of those with special needs, mobile property and large animals.
Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum may be used as an evacuation center. Both Eagle Valley Middle and Eagle Valley Elementary have been offered up as staging and camp areas for the Forest Service and firefighters.
Hardscrabble Road is completely closed, and the town of Eagle has posted information about fire-related trail closures at TownOfEagle.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=519.
The White River National Forest will enter Stage 2 fire restrictions on Friday.
For the latest information about pre-evacuation or evacuation notices, visit ECEmergency.org for Eagle County and PitkinCounty.com for Pitkin County.
The latest information, including a map of the closure when it is available, will be posted at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7562.
For more information about wildfire smoke visit EPA.gov/smoke-ready-toolbox-wildfires.
Nate Peterson and John LaConte contributed reporting.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.