UPDATES: Sylvan Fire at 10% containment a week after sparking
Nearly an inch of rain has fallen on the blaze in recent days
David Boyd with the U.S. Forest Service said containment on the Sylvan Fire remains at 10% as crews headed into nightfall Sunday.
The wildfire burning south of Eagle remains the largest priority fire in the Rocky Mountain region, with 361 personnel currently working the nearly 6-square-mile blaze. Although still under investigation, the fire is suspected to have been caused by lightning.
Boyd said the size on the fire remains unchanged, at 3,775 acres, but it has moved slightly.
“Some of that is growth here and there, but some of that is the mapping catching up,” Boyd said. “Weather is helping us out a lot.”
High humidity and spotted showers, combined with the occasional downpour, have assisted firefighters in recent days.
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About a third of an inch of rain fell on the fire on Saturday and Sunday morning, bringing the accumulation in recent days to nearly an inch total.
The fire line, which travels from Sylvan Lake westward to the powerline road, represents the first bit of containment from crews.
“Ten percent of the line is where we want it to be,” Boyd said. “The weather has moderated the behavior of the fire, which has allowed us to make a lot of progress, continuing to build lines and strengthen them. We’ve got a few more days of weather like this, and that will be very helpful.”
Boyd said the overhead views of the fire show areas of smoldering, with heavy smoke, indicating that if the humidity drops again and the winds pick up, the fire will become more active.
And some of the fires that may be taking place once the rain stops might be conducted by the crews on scene, as well, in an effort to improve fire lines, Boyd said.
“There’s some areas where we’re going to either light some areas ourselves, when the conditions are right, and have that burn to the fire lines, or allow the fire to get to places where we can effectively hold it,” Boyd said. “Even though weather has been really moderate, we still have some days coming, in the coming days, where will see more fire activity.”
The wet weather can be good and bad for firefighters, as the water helps put down the blaze and helps crews build fire lines.
“But the wet, slippery conditions make the work more difficult and increase safety concerns for driving and foot travel,” said Dan Dallas, the incident commander for the Rocky Mountain Type I Incident Management Team assigned to the blaze. “Fortunately, no serious injuries have occurred thus far on the incident, and we continue to make public and firefighter safety our highest priority.”
During a Friday evening Facebook community meeting, Rob Powell, the operations section chief for the fire, noted that the resources at risk — an Xcel Energy transmission line and the Eagle and Gypsum watersheds — earned the priority designation.
The Sylvan Fire has split into two main branches. Crews are attacking one branch along the Eagle Thomasville Road, which will be the primary fire line.
“We’re working really hard on that 400 road and getting that dug in, so that the fire doesn’t push harder and higher when it dries out,” said Michelle Kelly, a public information officer working the fire.
Kelly called the Sylvan Fire a “mosaic fire” with patches of green and black throughout the forest — and those green spots could become troublesome in the coming days when it is expected to dry out.
She said fire officials are always cautious about putting containment line on a map, wanting to be absolutely certain that an ember can’t cross a fire line when temperatures dry out or wind kicks up — which is what happened when the fire had its big blowup earlier in the week.
“We really want to make sure that we’re cold trailing, and that there’s not something like that could cross the road,” she said.