Welcome rain falls on Sylvan Fire as firefighting crews dig in for long haul
Moisture assists crews efforts, but won’t extinguish blaze that’s torched 3,752 acres
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
9 a.m. update: Nearly a half-inch of rain fell on the Sylvan Fire Thursday — enough moisture to help crews slow the flames’ advance but not enough to extinguish them altogether.
As of Friday morning, there is still 0 containment of the fire.
The Sylvan Fire has been burning for five days now and as of 9 a.m. Friday, it has torched 3,752 acres or nearly 5.86 square miles. The Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team took over management of the fire on Thursday.
According Tracy LeClair, public information officer for the incident management team, the heavy timber fuels around the Sylvan Fire didn’t soak up enough moisture to halt the blaze from spreading as conditions dry out over the next couple of days. That said, though, the moisture did have an impact.
“Basically the rain helped the crews with what they were working on,” LeClair said.
Heading into Friday, a priority area for the more than 200 firefighters on scene is the fire line along the Eagle Thomasville Road.
“There were some spots that had gone over the road to the east and crews are looking to get a handle on those so if things break out if the wind picks up, we don’t see it spread,” LaClair said.
On Friday, crews and helicopters will continue to focus on containing the fire that crossed the road as well as hot spots in the area. Roadside vegetation is being prepped for future burning operations that will provide a barrier to future fire movement across the road. Fire in that area became active yesterday when cloud cover lifted.
“There is also lot of work around Sylvan Lake and the power line road to the west,” LeClair added. “The fire did make it down to Sylvan Lake on the west side yesterday, but campgrounds and structures around the lake were not affected.”
“A lot of people have been concerned about how much fire was around the lake,” she continued. “It did reach the area, but crews have done a pretty good job of keeping it contained to just the west side for now.”
The Friday morning update from Dan Dallas, incident commander for the Sylvan Fire, noted that favorable weather is providing crews with an opportunity make progress toward containment. Five helicopters worked the blaze on Thursday and were scheduled to return to the area on Friday.
“Yesterday’s wet conditions will continue into today, with additional precipitation expected,” Dallas noted in his update.
“We will take the moisture, but we definitely don’t want the lighting,” LeClair added.
Showers will move to the east of the fire by Sunday, but a chance of isolated thunderstorms will remain.
“Next week will bring a warming, drying trend,” the Friday update added. “Heavy fuels remain very dry, especially where protected by tree canopies. With the expected drying trend next week, fuels will dry rapidly, and fire behavior will likely increase accordingly.”
Mount Thomas area
The Friday morning update noted that a portion for the fire has moved south on the Mount Thomas Trail and ridgeline. Crews working this rugged western flank of the fire are looking for opportunities to cut off spread on natural barriers such as slopes, meadows, and aspen stands.
In the northwestern part of the fire, firefighters are building direct fire line to secure the fire edge. They are also considering options for improving the primitive road access in the area to provide better firefighter access and safety.
A community Facebook meeting about the Sylvan Fire will be presented Friday at 6 p.m. at @SylvanFireInformation and on Eagle County Channel 18.
As crews continue their efforts on the Sylvan Fire, Eagle County Sheriff James Van Beek enacted Stage II fire restrictions, which prohibit campfires beginning Friday.
“With the current fire situation in Colorado and throughout the west, it is critical that everyone use extreme caution with fire in the outdoors,” stated Dallas in his Friday update. “Unnecessary human-caused fires make the work of our firefighting forces much harder.”
For the latest information about Sylvan Fire pre-evacuation or evacuation notices or fire restriction on non-Federal lands, visit http://www.ecemergency.org for Eagle County and http://www.pitkinemergency.org for Pitkin County. For the latest on area, road, and trail closures and fire restrictions on National Forest lands, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.
Temporary glight testriction is in place over the Sylvan Fire. Wildfires are a no drone zone. If you fly, firefighting resources can’t. Whenever a drone is spotted near the fire all aircraft are grounded until the drone is clear of the area. For more information, visit https://knowbeforeyoufly.org.
All the info you need
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.
As with all Eagle County emergencies, the community is coming together to support the first responders fighting the Sylvan Fire.
The Eagle Valley Community Foundation is currently rallying resources, including food, for the firefighters as they continue to arrive in Eagle County. As part of its Community Market program, the foundation is supplying snacks and meals for the fighters with the help of local restaurants and the local MIRA bus.
For Friday morning, Grand Avenue Grill is preparing 400 servings of eggs, bacon, fruit and waffles for the firefighters.
The foundation is also putting together a relief fund for the firefighters to help them get the resources they need. Donations can be made at eaglevalleycf.org.
The local Red Cross and Salvation Army are also helping to provide support right now.
Dan Smith, with the Vail Valley Salvation Army, has been on the scene since Sunday in his 4-wheel drive canteen set-up, providing meals on site for the firefighters.
“It’s an art form,” Smith said. “They’ve had a terrible day and we like to be a highlight.”
Friday, Smith and his canteen will be clearing out to allow for other community organizations to provide meals. However, you can continue to support the Vail Valley Salvation Army as they provide require volunteers and resources for future efforts with the fire. Smith also noted that the local Salvation Army is always looking for large commercial kitchens to provide meals during emergencies.
For more information on how to support or volunteer to help the local Salvation Army, call 970-748-0704.
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.
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. Both Eagle Valley Middle and Eagle Valley Elementary have been offered up as staging and camp areas for the Forest Service and firefighters.
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 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.
Ali Longwell contributed reporting
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