Sugarloaf Fire grows to 1,000 acres, but pushing away from Summit County
The Sugarloaf Fire bared its teeth toward Summit County on Thursday night, ballooning from just 200 acres to more than 800 in a matter of hours and inching to within 4.5 miles of the county. But as dawn rose over the smoky, blue sky Friday morning, officials breathed a sigh of relief as wind continued to push the blaze northeast, toward the tree line and away from Summit County.
The latest update, given at an emergency managers’ meeting in Grand County on Friday afternoon, places the Sugarloaf Fire burning at over 1,000 acres southwest of Fraser, said Brian Bovaird, emergency management director for Summit.
Menacing conditions in the area, namely low humidity and steep slopes, have made the fire too dangerous for firefighters to confront. However, Mother Nature may be on their side. Bovaird said wind is pushing the fire northeast toward the tree line, and officials are hoping the fire will simply put itself out in time.
“There’s no way for them to get into the area where it is and extinguish it,” said Bovaird. “So they’re not actively fighting the fire. But yesterday the fire was burning upslope and it got to the tree line, and laid itself down due to the lack of vegetation.”
At this time there are no structures at risk in either Summit or Grand counties, nor any evacuation or pre-evacuation orders related to the Sugarloaf Fire.
Bovaird said that the fire would continue to burn for an indefinite amount of time, but noted that the smoke is pushing away from Summit County, and there are currently no concerns about air quality. Summit County has contingency plans in place should the fire push back too far west.
“All the conversations and discussions we’ve had indicate that we are not expecting, unless conditions change, any issues with air quality or anything like that,” said Bovaird. “At the same time we are still watching this very closely. Anything can happen, but it would be a shock to everybody if things changed.”
Weather forecasts for the weekend also bode well, with cooler temperatures and higher humidity expected through Tuesday.
Though closures haven’t been announced, it’s expected that the wilderness area surrounding the fire will soon be closed off to the public. A regional Type 3 incident management team will take over management of the fire Saturday morning, and Type 3 helicopters along with U.S. Forest Service Firefighters are helping Grand fire crews with the blaze.
Summit County entered into Stage 2 fire restrictions on Thursday, effectively banning the use of open flames, charcoal grills and outdoor smoking along with several other prohibitions. All fireworks shows, including ones in Breckenridge, Frisco, Keystone and Copper Mountain, have been canceled.
“We’ll continue to do our contingency planning for ‘what if?'” said Bovaird. “But it’s looking good for Summit and Grand.”
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Encouraged by a two-week decline in the county’s coronavirus case numbers, Garfield County is seeking permission to adopt a 5-Star business variance program which would allow certified businesses to operate under looser restrictions then where the county is on the COVID-19 dial.