Sylvan Fire containment at 44% as incident team makes plans to scale back operations
11 a.m. update: Firefighters are making steady progress on the Sylvan Fire and the Rocky Mountain Type I Incident Team assigned to area plans to scale back firefighting personnel by the end of the week.
As of Wednesday morning, there are 402 personnel assigned to the 3,792-acre blaze, which remains at 44% containment.
Firefighters are working to secure the perimeter of the fire over the course of the next few days, according to Wednesday morning update from incident command.
The teams will work diligently to further increase containment of the fire before the Rocky Mountain Type I Incident Team transitions out at the end of the week.
The fire remains at 3,792 acres, just under 6 square miles, as of Wednesday morning. The area received about a 10th of an inch of rain throughout the evening Tuesday and a chance of rain persists through Wednesday and Thursday.
The incident team’s fire behavior analyst reported that even heavy fuels in the area are starting to show a slight increase in moisture content.
This has helped “subdue fire behavior,” which is now limited to “creeping and smoldering.”
Temperatures are expected to rise this weekend but the chance of rain and damp weather will remain, playing in the favor of further fire containment.
The two branches of the incident management team have been working tirelessly to establish more “firelines” or “black lines” to contain the fire along its perimeter, according to the release.
One of the divisions assigned within these two branches has been almost entirely contained and firefighters are working to establish a line along the fire’s perimeter South of Sylvan Lake where terrain allows.
Firefighters have also completed a containment line along the Mount Thomas Trail ridgeline and down into the drainage basin.
On Wednesday, additional fire crews were sent to the northwestern part of the fire, which has been identified as a priority area for laying down more fire line.
6:30 p.m. Tuesday update: The Sylvan fire grew only slightly Tuesday, aided by afternoon rain and firefighters’ work on containment lines. As of Tuesday evening, the fire was reported at 3,792 acres, with 44% containment.
While rain has been helpful the last few days, “rain isn’t going to put this fire out,” said public information officer Tracy LeClair. LeClair added that heavy fuels in the fire area are still quite dry and can still burn. And, LeClair said, the rain has actually made building fire line more difficult, because the fine fuels — grasses and other small plants — can’t be burned to help create fire lines.
With more warm weather in the extended forecast, LeClair said some areas may burn within the fire’s perimeter.
Another problem is the steep, densely wooded terrain in the fire perimeter. Those areas are difficult for firefighters to reach. In fact, LeClair said it’s going to require getting heavy equipment into some areas to clear the way for firefighting crews.
While firefighters continue to work, LeClair said fire and law enforcement officials keep hearing about hikers and backpackers in the closed-off areas of the forest.
“We really need people to stay out of there,” LeClair said, not just for hikers’ safety but also for the safety of firefighters.
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 402 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 was 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 were 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: 3,792 acres
Cause: Suspected lightning, still under investigation
Date of Ignition: June 20 around 3:15 PM
Firefighting Personnel: 402
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.
Nate Peterson and Pam Boyd contributed reporting
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