Wildfire remote but dangerous; BLM closes Radium campground, boat ramp | VailDaily.com

Wildfire remote but dangerous; BLM closes Radium campground, boat ramp

STATE BRIDGE — A Sunday afternoon lightning strike is believed to have sparked Eagle County's latest wildfire.

So far, the Gutzler fire is burning around 100 acres of mostly dead and downed beetle-kill timber in a remote area of Eagle County, between State Bridge and Kremmling southeast of the Trough Road, said the U.S. Forest Service.

Radium closed to camping, boating

Because of the fire, on Monday the Bureau of Land Management closed Radium recreation site to campers and the boat ramp to private boaters, said the managers of Ranch del Rio. After today, the Bureau of Land Management is closing the Radium ramp to commercial boaters, as well, said David Boyd with the Bureau of Land Management.

The Colorado River flows past the Bureau of Land Management's Pumphouse recreation area, then to Radium, then to privately owned Rancho del Rio and then to State Bridge Landing, which was acquired by Eagle County Open Space in 2011 and is operated by the bureau.

Fire started Sunday

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The fire was reported around 1 p.m. Sunday, and by Sunday evening, the Forest Service estimated it had grown to about 250 acres.

Forest Service officials got a better look Monday morning when they received infrared aerial photos that cut through the smoke to show the actual fire boundaries. Those photos put the fire's boundaries at about 100 acres, said Aaron Mayville, district ranger of the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District of the White River National Forest.

"It's smaller than we originally thought, which is a good thing," Mayville said.

The fire is in a remote spot nine miles east of State Bridge and 14 miles west of Kremmling near Sheephorn Road, southeast of the Trough Road that runs through the area. It's primarily burning in a southerly direction through dead and downed beetle-kill timber, Mayville said.

"Our highest priority is firefighter safety," Mayville said. "Finding areas where we can safely engage this fire will really guide our suppression strategy moving forward."

There is some private ranchland in the area. One residence and several ranch structures, a mile east of the fire, are being monitored and patrolled by engines. Those structures are surrounded by irrigated pasture, said Katelyn Jerman, public information officer with the Forest Service.

For the most part, the Gutzler fire is burning on top of a mesa toward the edge of a cliff. It's burning in an area with a large number of dead and downed trees infested by pine beetles.

Hotshot crews are on the scene, and aircraft dropped water on the fire for several hours Sunday but had to stop late in the day when a storm blew in, Jerman said.

Mayville said that because they now know the fire is smaller than originally thought, and because it's burning beetle-killed timber in a relatively contained area, they're marshaling resources to determine what course of action is "best for the resource."

Smoke may be visible from the State Bridge area in Eagle County and from Colorado Highway 9 in Summit County.

Six Western states

Wildfires have now sparked in six Western states: California, Arizona, Washington, Utah, New Mexico and now Colorado in both Eagle and Garfield counties. The Garfield County fire is small and is near Buford Road between Rifle and Meeker.

The Forest Service said the fires are fueled by gusty winds and high temperatures.

The Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service last week issued a red flag warning for all of Eagle County, meaning that wildfire danger is high. The warning comes from a combination of wind and low relative humidity — generally 15 percent or lower — which makes wildfires more likely to spark and spread, said meteorologist Matthew Aleksa.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Who is at greatest risk from wildfire smoke?

• People who have medical issues such as heart disease, chest pain, lung disease or asthma are at higher risk from wildfire smoke than healthy people.

• Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke. This may be due to their increased risk of heart and lung diseases.

• Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke. Children’s airways are still developing, and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. In addition, children often spend more time outdoors engaged in activity and play.

Take no comfort in a “comfort” mask if you’re trying to protect your lungs from wildfire smoke.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say those comfort masks or dust masks found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. The masks will not protect your lungs from small particles found in wildfire smoke.

It’s important to know as wildfires pop up all over the West.

“Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases,” the CDC said.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Fighting the Gutzler fire

8: Smokejumpers now

4: Hotshot crews expected to arrive by Tuesday morning

1: Type 3 helicopter

2: SEATS (single-engine air tankers) available, if needed

2: Fire engines

Source: U.S. Forest Service

Red sky at night

To get a red sky, you need aerosols, A. R. Ravishankara, director of chemical sciences at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder told Scientific American.

Those aerosols are solid or liquid particles suspended in the air, and originate from both human activity and natural processes, such as wildfires.

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