The Grizzly Creek fire is threatening the Colorado River and water for the entire West
EAGLE — White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams was driving home from vacation on Aug. 10 when he glanced up and saw the plumes billowing out of Glenwood Canyon and knew a historic wildfire was coming.
It wasn’t just that the flames licking up the craggy canyon walls were threatening homes, a railroad, a major highway and a power plant. It’s that the now 25,000-acre-and-growing Grizzly Creek Fire was burning in the municipal water supply of Glenwood Springs and in the headwaters of the Colorado River watershed, which eventually slakes more than 40 million downstream users.
“I knew we were in trouble,” Fitzwilliams said.
In many ways, the Grizzly Creek Fire — the largest in the history of the White River National Forest — is a public works fire, threatening vital infrastructure for millions of westerners, all wedged into a tiny sliver of steep canyon that pretty much prevents on-the-ground firefighting.
“That watershed and municipal water supply, after people and their homes, has been one of our highest priorities in this fire,” Fitzwilliams said. “I have not been involved in a fire in such a relatively small area where there are so many things going on.”
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