Fire sparks in South Canyon off I-70
At approximately 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8, a wildfire ignited near mile marker 112 on Interstate 70, just in front of exit 111 in South Canyon. The fire was considered 100 percent contained as of Friday, according to Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson.
However, Tillotson said the fire isn’t considered fully under control by the Bureau of Land Management, as there may be some internal hot spots inside the containment lines.
A fire investigator inspected the site on Thursday, but still has not formally determined a cause, Tillotson said.
Firefighters were to monitor the fire throughout the weekend, but won’t be doing any active work up on the mountain. Tillotson added that no more lane closures on I-70 westbound are expected.
Fire spread quickly
The fire spread quickly up the slope on the north side of I-70, putting Ami’s Acres Campground and Mitchell Creek on pre-evacuation notice, according to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. Both areas are east of the fire.
A concerned Craig Amichaux, Ami’s Acres Campground owner, watched throughout the afternoon as the helicopter dipped into the Colorado River near the campground to dump water on the fire that sparked a little too close to home.
By 4 p.m., he said he was feeling a little bit better, but that they weren’t out of the woods yet.
Responders from various agencies converged on the site, which forced a closure of westbound lanes on I-70 for several hours. Eastbound lanes on I-70 were closed for roughly an hour. At 9 p.m., both lanes westbound opened up to traffic, relieving the buildup of traffic on the interstate, as well as in downtown Glenwood.
The closures were initiated to allow fire equipment and responders to access the area.
By 4 p.m., West Glenwood was filled with cars, trucks and trailers, some parked on the side of Highway 6 as the rush hour traffic was faced with significant delays throughout the evening.
A helicopter was called in for aerial support and to drop buckets of water on the fire.
The helicopter dropped its buckets into the Colorado River, some drops only yards from the initial spark, as the fire’s proximity to the Colorado River proved to be extremely helpful to the firefighting efforts, said David Boyd, Bureau of Land Management NW Colorado District public affairs specialist.
With several fires burning in rural areas nearby, including the Cache Creek Fire near Rifle and the Cabin Lake Fire near New Castle, Boyd said the local and statewide agencies have resources ready when something like this breaks out.
“Something like this is going to be a high priority and we had an aggressive response to the fire,” Boyd explained
He said the crews hit the fire hard early and a variety of local agencies and federal resources responded.
Fire personnel covering some of the nearby and larger fires must determine what capacity they have if new fires break out and plan accordingly, according to Boyd.
By Wednesday, the Cabin Lake Fire was at 70 percent contained and the Cache Creek Fire was at 23 percent contained.
The efforts of the local firefighters have allowed reasonable control of the existing fire area and have stopped the previous spread, according to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. Operations are expected to continue into the night to minimize the possibility of any flare ups.
At about 6 p.m. a fire department employee said the fire was 95 percent contained and had burned 3 to 4 acres. Fire department officials said the cause is still unknown. According to Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson, the fire investigator will be on-site Thursday morning to determine a cause, while firefighters will continue to work on fire lines Thursday morning.
Citizen Telegram editor Alex Zorn and Post Independent reporter Tatiana Flowers contributed to this report.