Sylvan Fire at 27% containment, remains at 3,775 acres
Noon update: The size of Sylvan Fire — now nine days old — has remained constant at 3,775 acres for the past few days. Containment has increased each of the last three days and currently stands at 27%.
With very light fire behavior since the recent rains, more rain likely over the next week, and good progress made toward containing the fire, fire managers are looking at options for the days ahead. These will include keeping sufficient numbers of firefighters on the ground to continue progress towards containment while beginning to right size other parts of the fire organization.
Fire managers and local officials are also reminding residents and visitors alike, entering the Fourth of July weekend, that Stage II Fire restrictions remain in place throughout the area.
During a Monday evening fire update, Rob Powell, operations section chief for the Rocky Mountain Type I Incident Team in charge, noted that two Hotshot crews are slated to arrive Tuesday to assist with the firefighting effort.
“More resources are coming and we are looking forward to having them,” Powell said. “With more resources and hand crews, we have a better shot at containment.”
According to the U.S. Forest Service Inciweb information page, there are now 387 personnel assigned to the Sylvan Fire.
The Type I team managing the fire has split efforts into two branches. In Branch I, crews are working on reinforcing and improving the fire line from Sylvan Lake to the powerline road. One of the newly-arrived Hotshot crews will be working in the area Tuesday.
A Rapid Extraction Module Support Team has also been stationed at Sylvan Lake. The purpose of the team, if needed, is to extract injured firefighters from difficult terrain.
South of Sylvan Lake, firefighters continue prepping the containment line in the damp, grassy stream bottom parallel to the Eagle-Thomasville Road (400 Road). Firing operations to remove fuels between the fire edge and the stream bottom will be delayed until fuels dry out sufficiently.
In Branch II, a portion of Division Z on the southeastern corner of the fire contains so many snags that it is dangerous to put firefighters into the area. To mitigate this hazard, a timber processor has been ordered to clear a path through the snags and live trees. Any usable logs will be decked for later use.
Further west in this section, firefighters are taking advantage of meadows and other natural features to create a fire barrier. An additional Hotshot crew will be working in this area Tuesday.
The steep, inaccessible portions of Division Z that are unsafe for crews to work in will be boxed in by an indirect fireline on the south along the Mount Thomas Trail and scree slopes on the west. In the northwestern part of the fire, in Division A, firefighters continue to work toward containment from the powerline road to LEDE Reservoir and from the reservoir to the southeast.
As they work to contain the fire, Powell stressed that crews are also developing contingency plans if conditions worsen. For example, he noted a plan has been developed to protect structures in the Fulford area. That work will help residents even after the Sylvan Fire is extinguished, Powell said.
Location: Eagle County, White River National Forest in Sylvan Lake State Park, 16 miles south of Eagle
Size: 3,775 acres
Cause: Suspected lightning, still under investigation
Date of Ignition: June 20 around 3:15 PM
Firefighting Personnel: 387
Looking for that black line
Everyone wants to see black lines on fire boundary maps because they signify containment lines around the blaze. Mark Giacoletto, deputy incident commander for the Sylvan Fire team, noted it will likely be a while before that happens.
“When will it be out? I don’t see, in the very near future, having a black line all round it,” Giacoletto said. “It will be a bit before it’s contained. There will be smoke popping up through interior throughout the summer.”
That said, Giacoletto said he is optimistic about where the situation stands and the crews assigned to the scene.
On the subject of the firefighting crews assigned to the fire, Powell and Giacoletto thanked the Eagle Valley community for its hospitality. Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek noted locals who want to offer tangible evidence of their support can contribute to gift card programs being offered by various merchants in the area. The gift card donations give fire personnel free meals at local businesses, compliments of grateful local citizens.
Eye on the skies
Sylvan Fire Incident Commander Dan Dallas noted that weather conditions remain a critical component of crews’ efforts.
“The weather this week should favor continued progress on fire line construction and preparation for future burning operations,” Dallas said in a Monday morning update. “A few new crews have arrived, and two additional Hotshot crews are expected soon. This will help with completing some of the more difficult portions of the fire line.”
Crews have completed a direct fire line from Sylvan Lake westward to the power line road. South of Sylvan Lake, firefighters are prepping the primary containment line along the moist, grassy stream bottom parallel to the Eagle-Thomasville Road.
Crews are also working to contain the portion of the fire that moved south of the Mount Thomas Trail and ridgeline. Once they have completed this section, they will then clear an indirect fire line extending westward along Mount Thomas Trail as a contingency against southward spread of the fire in the steep, inaccessible portions that are unsafe for crews to work in.
Dallas said the favorable weather over the weekend and more moisture on the way is helping moderate the situation.
“Rain received in recent days will continue to keep fuels moist while moderating fire behavior. Fire spread will be limited and consisting mostly of smoldering and creeping,” Dallas said.
Though lightning is suspected as cause of the fire, the incident is still under investigation.
For the latest information about pre-evacuation or evacuation notices or fire restrictions on non-Federal lands, visit ECemergency.org. Officials are also reminding the public that wildfires are a No Drone Zone, and if you fly, they can’t.
Pam Boyd contributed reporting
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