Sylvan Fire did not grow much Wednesday; state park ‘in good shape’
5.5 square mile blaze will receive assistance from a larger Type-1 team beginning Thursday
Location: Eagle County, White River National Forest in Sylvan Lake State Park, 16 miles south of Eagle
Size: 3,583 acres
Cause: Suspected lightning, still under investigation
Date of Ignition: June 20 around 3:15 PM
Firefighting Personnel: 130
The Sylvan Fire did not grow much from its 5.5 square mile size on Wednesday, thanks to higher relative humidity and cloud cover in the Eagle area.
“When there’s more moisture in the air, fuels are less available to burn,” said Incident Commander Ryan Hughes.
As of 6 a.m. Thursday, Hughes will turn over Incident Commander responsibilities to Dan Dallas with the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team, which will bring more resources to the 3,583-acre fire burning near Sylvan Lake State Park in Eagle.
The fire began on Sunday, quickly escalating 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.”
The Wednesday evening briefing doubled as an introduction of Dallas, who said he was familiar with the area from working the Pine Gulch Fire in Western Colorado last summer.
Dallas said his team does not bring more expertise, only resources.
“There’s about 50 of us that show up, where (outgoing Incident Commander Ryan Hughes), you probably had less than 20,” Dallas said.
More favorable weather possible
Dallas said firefighters working the Sylvan Fire may get an assist from Mother Nature in the days ahead, a prediction with which Kris Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, concurred.
Sanders said widespread showers and thunderstorms are in the local forecast on Thursday.
“There’s a good chance that these showers will be pretty scattered in nature,” Sanders said. “Wetting rain, so to speak. That’s on the table for tomorrow.”
The cloud cover and the relative humidity should also help, in theory, Sanders said.
“The one thing that is the wild card is the wind that comes out of these showers,” Sanders said. “That’s something to keep an eye on. When these gusts of wind stir up things with the fire.”
In the early a.m. hours on Wednesday, crews experienced a containment breach as the Sylvan Fire crossed Forest Road 400 (West Brush Creek Road) near Crooked Creek Pass.
“The fire got over the road and kind of spotted over about 20 acres,” Hughes said. “Crews made very good progress on that today, as well, using hand line and going as close to the fire’s edge as possible.”
Firefighters burned in fireline north and east of Crooked Creek Park and worked to keep the fire from moving farther south.
“On the south end of the fire, the fire stayed above the power line, very high up in the Crooked Creek Pass area,” Hughes said.
State Park OK
And as for Sylvan Lake State Park, Hughes said crews have been able to keep the fire away from the campground.
“Much of the edge of the lake still looks very much the same, there is a patch of black that comes down to the lake, but your view out of your camper or tent from your campsite will look very similar, for the most part,” Hughes said. “Hopefully we’ll have some new trees in there in a couple years, but at this point, the park is in good shape, and the grass is really green.”
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 yesterday, said David Boyd with the Forest Service.
Additional resources have been arriving, Boyd said, with about 195 personnel are working the fire, along with three heavy helicopters and a light helicopter. An additional heavy helicopter us scheduled to arrive on Thursday.
“I think we’re in a good place to transition,” Dallas said Wednesday. “Ryan ordered a whole bunch of resources that are starting to arrive, so we appreciate that.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but lightning is suspected.
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. If you are in these areas, you need to evacuate immediately.
If you have immediate needs for relocating livestock, 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.
Van Beek said those wanting to volunteer should inquire with the local Red Cross or Salvation Army.
“Directly volunteering at any of the scenes is extremely difficult,” Van Beek said. “But the Salvation Army and the Red Cross are doing a lot of support right now.”
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 contributed reporting.
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