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Sylvan Fire at 19% containment Monday morning; weather should help firefighters this week

The Sylvan Fire, which started June 20, in Eagle County has reached 19% containment and remains at 3,775 acres as of Monday morning, according to Incident Commander Dan Dallas.

“The weather this week should favor continued progress on fireline 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 fireline.”

Crews have completed a direct fireline from Sylvan Lake westward to the powerline 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 fireline 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 www.ecemergency.org. Officials are also reminding the public that wildfires are a No Drone Zone, and if you fly, they can’t.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

Welcome rain falls on Sylvan Fire as firefighting crews dig in for long haul

Sylvan Fire at a glance


Location: Eagle County, White River National Forest in Sylvan Lake State Park, 16 miles south of Eagle

Size: 3,752 acres

Fuel: Spruce-Fir

Cause: Suspected lightning, still under investigation

Date of Ignition: June 20 around 3:15 PM

Firefighting Personnel: 200 and counting

Containment: 0%

Firefighters work Thursday to lower fuels in the path of the Sylvan Fire near Sylvan Lake State Park outside of Eagle.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

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.

A Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane helicopter drops water Thrusday at Sylvan Lake State Park outside of Eagle.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

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 look at the Sylvan Lake command post to fight the Sylvan Fire outside of Eagle.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

“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.”

Morning update

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.

Smoke rises in hot spots of the Sylvan Fire on Thursday at Sylvan Lake State Park outside of Eagle.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

“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.

Scarred and burned trees remain after flames of the Sylvan Fire moved through Thursday near Sylvan Lake State Park outside of Eagle.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

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 www.ecemergency.org for Eagle County and 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.

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.

Aspen in winter storm warning through Monday with a foot or more of snow forecast for higher elevations

The first major snowstorm of the season is expected to roll into Colorado on Sunday with the mountains around Aspen seeing up to two feet of snow by Monday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

A winter storm warning is in effect starting Sunday morning until 6 p.m. Monday for nearly all of central and western Colorado, and travel is being discouraged, especially along Interstate 70 and over mountain passes.

Along with the snow, high winds and “bitterly cold temperatures” are in the NWS forecast.

For the Aspen area, total snow accumulations of “7 to 14 inches with higher amounts nearing two feet in the higher portions of the Elk and West Elk Mountains. Winds gusting as high as 40 mph,” according to the weather service’s winter storm warning updated early Sunday morning.

The NWS is predicting most of the Colorado mountain ranges will see 6 to 12 inches, and locally higher amounts are possible “with the potential for a heavier snow band to develop and, depending on where the band sets up, snowfall totals could be much higher.”

The Aspen forecast calls for overnight lows Sunday and Monday in the single digits, and the high Monday at 32 degrees.

The Colorado Department of Transportation sent out a message Saturday night discouraging travel for the next two days.

“Chain and traction laws are likely (on I-70), so motorists should check tires before traveling and have chains or auto socks on hand,” the agency said in a news release Saturday evening. “CDOT continues to ask motorists to not travel to the high country, due to wildfire operations and evacuations. If travel in the high country is necessary, be sure to have an emergency kit in the event of road closures or delays due to winter weather.”

The drastic change in weather is expected to help the crews working on the East Troublesome (192,000 acres burned) and Cameron Peak (208,000 acres) fires burning in north central Colorado.

Those traveling through the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport should check with their airlines or go to aspenairport.com for updates. Two United flights to Denver scheduled to leave Sunday afternoon have been canceled, as of Sunday morning.

The Aspen School District is planning for middle school and high school students to return to in-person learning on Monday. District officials will send out a message by early Monday morning if classes are canceled.

This is a developing story that will be updated.