Sylvan Fire receives more resources from Type-1 team on Thursday
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
10:30 a.m. update: Aided by the weather, the Sylvan Fire did not grow much overnight as a Type 1 Incident Management Team takes over management of the fire.
“The weather has been helping us,” said David Boyd, public affairs officer for the White River National Forest. Yesterday’s cooler temperatures, higher humidity and cloud cover in the Eagle area helped to moderate the fire behavior and allow firefighters to be more direct in fighting the fire.
As the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team took over management Thursday morning, it brings more resources and more capacity to tackle the fire, which now burns at 3,752 acres, or nearly 5.86 square miles.
According to Operations Section Chief Rob Powell in a Facebook Live update this morning, 200 people have now been assigned to the fire with more coming in as well as four helicopters.
“I think we’re in a good place to transition,” Dan Dallas, who took over incident commander responsibilities from Ryan Hughes Thursday, said on Wednesday. “Ryan ordered a whole bunch of resources that are starting to arrive, so we appreciate that.”
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.
Yesterday, the weather allowed the 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, the crews will look to strengthen 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.
Kris Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, concurred that 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.
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.”
However, 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.”
State Park OK
And as for Sylvan Lake State Park, Hughes said on Wednesday evening that 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.”
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. If you are in these areas, you need to evacuate immediately.
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.
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 and John LaConte contributed reporting.
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