BREAKING: Gutzler fire blowing smoke into Vail, but is not a cause for concern
EAGLE COUNTY — The Gutzler Fire burning in northern Eagle County is growing and blowing smoke and ash into Vail, but was not a cause for concern as of Tuesday evening, said Aaron Mayville with the U.S. Forest Service.
Mayville said the Vail area has been fortunate so far in avoiding the brunt of smoke from the fire, which is suspected to have started smoldering during the last week of June and has intensified in recent days. A change in winds pushed smoke into Vail on Tuesday evening, but that isn’t the only reason you may be noticing more smoke now than before, Mayville said.
“It’s a bigger fire, it’s growing every day so it’s putting more smoke up in the air,” Mayville said Tuesday. “Right now there’s a thunderstorm hovering between us and the fire. So the winds are blowing it and swirling it and pushing it everywhere. That’s why we’re seeing and smelling it.”
The forest service reported that the fire was mapped Tuesday morning by aircraft which indicated growth on Monday and early Tuesday by 200 acres, bringing the Gutzler fire to slightly more than 300 acres in total.
“Yesterday, we got a better idea of what the fire behavior is like in this dense timber stand which is affected by beetle-kill,” Mayville said Tuesday. “Due to the fuel loading, conditions and our focus on firefighter safety, we anticipate this fire will be with us for a little while.”
The forest service reported the fire to be burning primarily in mixed conifer and beetle-kill timber, with isolated torching and spotting in a heavy fuel load of dead and downed trees. With firefighter safety the top priority, crews are not cutting direct suppression lines on the flanks of the fire due to safety concerns with falling dead trees.
The Bureau of Land Management issued a temporary emergency closure of the Radium campground and boat launch due to fire operations in the area, but there are no other evacuations or official closures in place at this time. The forest service asks members of the public to be advised that fire vehicles and engines are utilizing roads like the Trough Road, Sheephorn Creek Road and Forest Road 402 for operations.
Paul Cuthbertson set out by himself around 3 p.m. Friday from the trailhead that leads up to the Polar Star Inn, according to his father, Mike, but never made it to the popular backcountry hut as a late-spring snowstorm moved in.