Grizzly Creek Fire crews turning over management, expecting more containment soon

Public Information Officer Wayne Patterson walks on the path at the Hanging Lake Rest Area in Glenwood Canyon on Thursday, August 20, 2020.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

The speed of the Grizzly Creek Fire has been substantially reduced over the past few days, and containment levels are expected to increase over the next few, officials said in a community meeting Saturday.

Amtrak trains have resumed travel through Glenwood Canyon, and Interstate 70 is expected to open in the coming days, as well, said Michael Goolsby, Colorado Department of Transportation’s northwest region transportation director.

And while pre-evacuation orders are still in place for communities that have been preparing, officials are beginning to feel like that possibility isn’t as likely anymore.

“We’re getting more and more confident that it’s not going to escape and get Dotsero, but we still want people to be prepared and keep in mind that something radical might happen,” Eagle County Undersheriff Mike McWilliam said on Saturday.

“We’re enjoying some success,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams echoed. “But we’re kind of moving into another phase of the fire.”

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Fitzwilliams said next week’s work will be focused on tying up each area of the fire.

“It’s less of the craziness that we all had to deal with in the early stages of it, and more of a grind,” Fitzwilliams said.

New management coming

The fire will also see a transition in management next week as Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1, which assumed command of the Grizzly Creek firefighting efforts on Aug. 13, will hand over operations to the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team.

Fitzwilliams said management transitions during large incidents like the Grizzly Creek Fire are a normal part of the response.

“It’s pretty seamless,” Fitzwilliams said.

The Forest Service performed an assessment to determine what kind of management would need to follow the Great Basin team, and concluded that another top-tier response team, known as a “Type-1” team, would need to follow the Great Basin team. There are currently 16 national Type-1 incident management teams operating in the U.S., including the Great Basin and the Alaska teams.

“We generally go a 14-day tour,” said Marty Adell with the Great Basin team.

During a typical turnover, Adell said the teams will spend a day or two working together to share important priorities and information.

“We want to make sure we get to the end of this fire in a safe, manageable and efficient way,” he said.

Adell said the Great Basin team will be in Colorado through Tuesday, and the Alaska team is currently in transit to the area.

“They are incredibly experienced,” Adell said of the Alaska team. “So you are in very good hands.”

The next Grizzly Creek Fire community meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. on the Grizzly Creek Fire Facebook page; viewers will have a chance to hear from the incident commander for the new Alaska team at that meeting.

“We will have a close-out Wednesday morning, the 26th, and at that point we will travel home for a couple days off,” Adell said.

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