Glenwood fire edging toward Eagle County |

Glenwood fire edging toward Eagle County

Cliff Thompson

They’re in the path of the slow-moving northern half of the fire that is 15 miles from the Colorado River Road. That fire is moving northeast. County records show there are about 250 dwellings in the area.

“There hasn’t been a lot of movement your way,” said Fire Information Officer Jim Nelson of Glenwood Springs. “It’s contained by No Name Creek which has a big, deep canyon. Unless it would jump that, which it is showing no signs of doing, everything is fine.”

No Name Creek is two miles east of Glenwood Springs.

The fire started Saturday from sparks thrown from a burning underground coal seam on the southwestern part of Glenwood Springs. Those sparks ignited the dry oak brush and the fire rapidly spread, and jumped to the north side of Interstate 70, forcing the evacuation of 3,000 Glenwood Springs residents. Forty dwellings were destroyed and about 300 people remain displaced.

Annalies Stephens, who lives in Sweetwater and operates Stephens Nursery in Dostero, said she’s watching the fire closely, but she isn’t panicked.

“There’s really not much you can do,” she said.

Andrea Palm-Porter of Anderson Camp on the Colorado River echoed that sentiment and said she’s just keeping an eye on things.

Outfitter Adrian Brink of Sweetwater Lake Resort thinks that once the fire hits the top of the Flat Tops, firefighters will have a better chance at controlling it.

“We’re quite a few days away from it. You can’t fight it when it’s in the canyons. The old-timers I’ve talked to say once it gets on top that they can fight it. In a normal year it wouldn’t burn all the way across the top,” she said. “This isn’t a normal year.”

She figures if it gets bad, she will saddle and pack up her string of horses and belongings, and head the 10 miles down the road to the Colorado River and wait out the fire.

Most of the firefighting effort has gone into stopping the fire on the southwestern part of Glenwood Springs near the Three Mile Canyon area, where it still threatens dwellings, said Fire Information Officer Jim Nelson. That southern half of the fire is judged about 25 percent contained by firefighters. The northern half of the fire has not received as much attention, said Nelson.

Colorado is in the grip of the worst drought on record and the wildland is primed to burn. That has prompted a total fire ban in Eagle County and elsewhere. The Pike/San Isabel National Forest has been closed to public access.

Eagle District Ranger Cathy Kahlow of the U.S. Forest Service flew over the fire Thursday morning and said the fire has slowed from its torrid, wind-driven pace of last weekend.

“It’s got spots that are torching and other spots that are very calm,” she said. The fire has ascended to the 10,000 foot elevation on the Flat Tops, where there is a mixture of heavy fuel and open meadows. The northeast part of the fire is the hottest point, while around the edges it is lying low, Kahlow said.

“There hasn’t been a lot of movement on the north end of the fire,” Nelson said.

A problem on the Coal Seam Fire is the competition for firefighting resources from other fires in the state. The 100,000-acre Hayman fire, Colorado’s largest ever, remains the nation’s top wildfire priority and has drawn the most attention, firefighters and firefighting equipment. It started Saturday from an illegal and unattended campfire 50 miles southwest of Denver.

Firefighters on the Coal Seam Fire are getting help from two huge helicopters that carry fire retardant and water.

One thing firefighters are hoping to prevent is the fire jumping the Roaring Fork River and hitting the southeastern part of town.

But that, like everything else about wildfires, that is only partially within their control. The wind may dictate what happens next.

The wind has continued to blow steadily at about 15 miles per hour with gusts up to 25 and is expected to remain in that pattern. No precipitation is in the National Weather Service forecast through the weekend, and temperatures are expected to remain in the 70s.

Extremely heavy winds from a cold front that passed north of Colorado during the flareup of the fire drove it to consume nearly 7,500 acres Saturday afternoon and evening.

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