‘Dodged a bullet’: Heavy rain misses Grizzly Creek burn scar

John LaConte
Vail Daily
A frame grab from a live video shot by Kale Casey with the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team on Saturday. Casey said a rain storm tracked south of the burn scar.
Grizzly Creek Fire information page

Crews working the Grizzly Creek Fire on Saturday saw conditions that were opposite of what they’ve seen so far, dealing with rain and cold weather.

The fire began Aug. 10 and is now 32,448 acres, with the most recent estimation on containment at 71%.

“Fire crews are dealing with the rain, they’re still mopping up,” Kale Casey with the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team said in a report from Coffee Pot Road on Saturday. “The rain is helping the firefighters, there’s definitely hot spots past us and down below us. … It’s cold though, we’ve gotta keep the firefighters from getting hypothermia in conditions when it’s windy and rainy like this.”

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for the Glenwood Canyon area Saturday morning, but meteorologist Kris Sanders with the weather service’s Grand Junction office said we “dodged a bullet” when it came to floods.

“The area of rain that prompted the watch this morning moved over the burn scar between 8 and 10 a.m.,” Sanders said Saturday evening. “There was some rain on the burn scar and the immediate area — Eagle, just down from the burn scar, had received 0.1 inches of rain, … whereas Aspen, closer to the higher terrain, actually had 0.6, so that area of precipitation was capable of producing pretty decent rainfall. So if that we to have fallen on the burn scar, I think we would have had pretty significant issues this morning.”

The watch never moved into the phase of a warning, and was lifted a few hours later. But the watch allowed crews to be ready just in case, said Eric Langford with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“When a flash flood watch is issued for Glenwood Canyon in the burn scar area, at that point in time we activate our personnel, they’re on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in close proximity in these locations,” Langford said in a post published Saturday. “They’re going to go out and stage in the area and get ready for a potential closure.”

More help

Crews are working to shore up lines in rugged country, including in the Grizzly and No Name drainages, with more help arriving, a Saturday morning update stated.

“Additional crews are arriving today to improve the contingency lines in the northwest corner of the fire,” the update states.

As of Saturday morning, there were 644 personnel working on the fire, and the crews include 33 engines, four helicopters, 12 water tenders and 10 bulldozers.

Road closures remain in effect for Coffee Pot Road, Transfer Trail Road and areas of the Flat Top Wilderness accessed by those roads, as do many surrounding White River National Forest and BLM roads. Rest areas through Glenwood Canyon are closed “as part of a coordinated plan to quickly clear traffic and close the road if needed,” according to a Saturday update from Grizzly Creek Fire officials.

Levy Burris with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office said the office supports the decision to close rest areas “so that we don’t have people in those areas if something happens due to weather, due to rockfall, or anything else that would require an immediate response and the closure of the canyon and worrying about having people stuck in that environment,” he said.

Hazardous weather

A hazardous weather outlook from the National Weather Service was issued for the area Saturday morning.

While the weather helped firefighters Saturday, drier and breezy conditions ahead of an approaching cold front will lead to elevated fire weather conditions Sunday into early next week, according to the outlook.

Sanders said it could get cold again next week.

“We’re looking at chilly temperatures, probably, Tuesday morning,” he said. “Where some of the higher elevations will be dropping below freezing, we could get some rain-snow really high up in the peaks.”

Visit for the most current conditions and closures.