Firefighting crews aim to prevent eastern spread on Grizzly Creek Fire |

Firefighting crews aim to prevent eastern spread on Grizzly Creek Fire

A view of the Grizzly Creek Fire from Dotsero. If you're preparing a disaster kit, don't forget to include supplies for your pet(s).
Kim Fadick | Special to the Daily

While the Grizzly Creek Fire remains uncontained on Saturday, some encouraging news came out of the southeastern side of the blaze near the border of Garfield and Eagle counties.

“The fire made several runs, but air tankers and firefighters were able to prevent an eastern spread,” David Boyd with the U.S. Forest Service wrote in a news release on Saturday.

As of Saturday morning, the fire had burned more than 19,000 acres east of Glenwood Springs. It started Monday afternoon along Interstate 70 in the Glenwood Canyon near the Grizzly Creek rest area. The cause remains under investigation.

“Last night the fire became very active west of Bair Ranch and backed under the I-70,” the USFS press news states about Friday night into Saturday. “[Saturday’s fire weather will be a repeat of [Friday’s], hot and dry with moderate winds. Firefighting efforts will include structure protection in the areas of Spring Valley, High Aspen and Lookout Mountain, and continue structure protection efforts in the I-70 corridor from No Name to Shoshone Power Station, Bair Ranch and Dotsero. Dozers will assist crews with line construction.”

Fire lines held in the No Name drainage on Friday and a portable retardant base was set up near the No Name exit, where a large tank filled with fire retardant is available for air support crews.

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“Large helicopters can come in, dip their buckets in, and take retardant back to the fire rather than taking clear water back to the fire,” Operations Section Chief Jeff Surber said on Saturday. “Retardant is a lot more effective at holding those edges that may not be worked by people in the future.”

Fifteen helicopters are currently working the Grizzly Creek Fire, along with 26 fire engines and a total of 553 people.

Winds expected to shift

On Friday, crews attempted to use fire retardant on the southeast section of the fire, but winds made that tricky.

“Our biggest problem (on the east end of the fire) has been that southwesterly flow pushing the smoke toward the Dotsero area,” Surber said on Saturday. “Trying to fly aircraft into that smoke column doesn’t work.”

The flow on Saturday was expected to shift more out of the northwest and possibly the north, which could allow crews on the northeast section of the fire to work that area.

“The wind should be pushing the fire back on itself there,” Surber said. “If that’s the case, typically the aircraft can work the (northeast) section of the fire much easier than the (southeast), because the air will be clearer, where the wind will be blowing the smoke away from the fire.”

Changing tactics

Surber said teams were also looking to work the northeastern portion of the fire directly on Saturday, where hand crews walk along the edge of the fireline and put the edge of the fire out. On Friday, indirect tactics, where teams go in with heavy equipment and wait for the fire to come to them, were being used on the northeastern and southeastern edge of the fire.

Indirect tactics are also being used in the area near the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on the northwestern side of the fire.

“It is very difficult to put people in front of it with the active fire,” incident commander Marty Adell said on Friday. “So we have to use different tactics.”

In the residential area of Aspen Meadows, Lookout Mountain and Spring Valley — where evacuations have already occurred, teams are using both indirect and direct fire suppression tactics currently, Adell said.

A top priority among fire crews currently is “doing what we need to, as quickly as we can, to get the evacuated people back into their homes,” Adell said.

Pre-evacuation orders remain in place for the Sweetwater Road and Dotsero communities in Eagle County.

Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon has been closed since the fire started Monday afternoon; on Friday Independence Pass re-opened to limited vehicle access. Cottonwood Pass remains closed.

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