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Crews zero in on small wildland fire near Lazy Glen in Roaring Fork Valley

An air tanker drops fire retardant on a wildland fire near the Lazy Glen community on Friday afternoon.
Courtesy of Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office

Fire crews worked a small wildland fire Friday in the Roaring Fork Valley near the Lazy Glen community and should have it completely out by Saturday evening, a fire official said Friday night.

The fire is on Bureau of Land Management property and is not easily accessible. A U.S. Forest Service ground crew is on scene but is waiting for weather to pass before they go back up Friday night, Jim Genung, fire management officer with the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit, said about 6 p.m.

He said a lightning strike Thursday night in the area is the cause of the fire, but they could not find it when they went up in the evening. He said the fire “kicked up with the winds” that came through Friday afternoon. It has burned about a half-acre but was “taking on a good rain right now,” Genung said.

When the weather clears the ground crew will return to the burn area, and another team will join Saturday and there should be 10-12 federal firefighters on the scene, he said.

“Weather permitting, we should have it buttoned by (Saturday) evening,” Genung said.

Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Chief Scott Thompson said earlier Friday the fire is to the north of the Lazy Glen community (near mile marker 26 on Highway 82), a few hundred yards up the hill and burning in pinon and juniper trees. He said no structures are threatened and there are no evacuations.

“We’ve used two small air tankers and they’ve boxed it in, but the fire is going to be visible tonight and most of tomorrow depending on how much moisture we get,” Thompson said from the scene. “If you’re driving up Holland Hills and Lazy Glen, it’s in your face.”

Genung said the two single-engine air tankers were able to each make two drops and form a box around the fire.

The lightning that moved through with Thursday night’s storms caused four or five fires in the region, Genung said. He said crews worked Friday morning on a small fire west of the Grizzly Creek burn scar, and then other small fires in western Garfield County and on BLM land.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

LIVE UPDATES: Scattered showers provide assist on Sylvan Fire

Sylvan Fire at a glance

Location: Eagle County, White River National Forest in Sylvan Lake State Park, 16 miles south of Eagle

Size: 3,752 acres

Fuel: Spruce-Fir

Cause: Suspected lightning, still under investigation

Date of Ignition: June 20 around 3:15 PM

Firefighting Personnel: 200 and counting

9 p.m. update: As if on cue, a good, wetting rain fell on Eagle and the Sylvan Fire on Thursday night around 7 p.m. Scattered rain showers, cooler temperatures and cloud cover on Thursday provided the 200 personnel working the Sylvan Fire with an assist as the fire’s growth slowed considerably.

A Type 1 Incident Management Team took over management of the fire on Thursday morning.

“The weather has been helping us,” said David Boyd, public affairs officer for the White River National Forest. The Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team brings more resources and more capacity to tackle the fire, which was still burning on 3,752 acres as of 9 p.m. Thursday night, or nearly 5.86 square miles.

According to Operations Section Chief Rob Powell in a Facebook Live update Thursday morning, 200 people have now been assigned to the fire with more coming in as well as four helicopters.

However, resources, both nationally and regionally, are stretched thin though according to Powell.

“Resources nationally, even though it’s still June, are extremely short,” Powell said. ”Most of our hotshot crews in the region, all of them are assigned to fires in our region. Aircraft is short. This is something we’ll have to deal with throughout the summer.“

The fire began on Sunday afternoon and quickly escalated to the level of a wildland blaze which warrants the large capacity available from a Type 1 team.

“The Type 1 team, they kinda come in with their own city,” Sheriff James van Beek said on Wednesday evening, during a community briefing. “Watch out for the trucks, keep the kids away, there’s going to be a lot of extra traffic moving, so we’re asking everyone to be extremely cautious.”

The crews fighting the Sylvan Fire will be aided by cooler temperatures and cloud cover the next few days.
Sylvan Fire Information/Special to the Daily

Aided by weather

With the cooler weather here to stay for the next few days, Boyd said it will allow the teams to begin working on the “critical pieces” of the fire and fight “right up against what’s burning.”

This includes the area where the fire burned down to Sylvan Lake on Tuesday as well as the extreme south side where the crews will attempt to keep the fire from the Frying Pan drainage area.

The weather has allowed crews to moderate the fire activity where it crossed the Forest Road 400 (West Brush Creek Road) near Crooked Creek Pass.

Crews were able to construct direct fireline around the 20-30 acres that crossed FSR 400 (West Brush Creek Road) on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, as well as the approximate 100 acres that crossed the powerline road and burned to Sylvan Lake on Tuesday, Boyd said.

Thursday, crews strengthened these lines along the road.

The Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team took over management of the fire on Thursday morning.
Sylvan Fire Information/Special to the Daily

With this weather expected to continue over the next few days, the crews will be doing all they can to “box it in,” Boyd said.

This includes finding places where the crews can hold the fire, using existing roads and natural features — such as meadows and rocky slopes — as firelines.

Boyd was careful to note that after these cooler days, the area is expecting hotter and dryer days, bringing about more fire activity and more smoke. “This will take time,” he said. “This fire is going to be here for a while as we’re boxing it in, there’s a lot of timber that will still burn.”

Powell echoed this sentiment on Thursday morning, expecting success over the next few days while remaining cautious about the fire.

It’s not normal what we’re seeing any more,” Powell said, referring to the increasing wildfire danger over the past few years. “We have to plan for a bigger event; we’re taking advantage of the weather and the resources we have to engage the fire direct, but also looking at farther out options to get established.”

Coming together

Volunteers at The Community Market prepare nutritious snacks for the Sylvan Fire firefighters.
Eagle Valley Community Foundation/Special to the Daily

As with all Eagle County emergencies, the community is coming together to support the first responders fighting the Sylvan Fire.

The Eagle Valley Community Foundation is currently rallying resources, including food, for the firefighters as they continue to arrive in Eagle County. As part of its Community Market program, the foundation is supplying snacks and meals for the fighters with the help of local restaurants and the local MIRA bus.

For Friday morning, Grand Avenue Grill is preparing 400 servings of eggs, bacon, fruit and waffles for the firefighters.

The foundation is also putting together a relief fund for the firefighters to help them get the resources they need. Donations can be made at eaglevalleycf.org.

According to Powell, the firefighting crews are setting up an operating base just north of Sylvan Lake. This is where many of the meals will be delivered to the crews.

The local Red Cross and Salvation Army are also helping to provide support right now.

Dan Smith, with the Vail Valley Salvation Army, has been on the scene since Sunday in his 4-wheel drive canteen set-up, providing meals on site for the firefighters. Since Sunday, Smith, with the help of 20 volunteers throughout the week, has served 2,015 meals — which is already about half of the number of meals the canteen served all of last year during emergencies.

“It’s an art form,” Smith said. “They’ve had a terrible day and we like to be a highlight.”

Friday, Smith and his canteen will be clearing out to allow for other community organizations to provide meals. However, you can continue to support the Vail Valley Salvation Army as they provide require volunteers and resources for future efforts with the fire. Smith also noted that the local Salvation Army is always looking for large commercial kitchens to provide meals during emergencies.

For more information on how to support or volunteer to help the local Salvation Army, call 970-748-0704.

Salvation Army volunteers box meals at Eagle Valley Middle School on Wednesday.
Nate Peterson/npeterson@vaildaily.com

All the info you need

There is a new Facebook page, Sylvan Fire Information, where updates will be provided.

A virtual community meeting will be held on the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page at 6 p.m. Friday.

A pre-evacuation order has been issued for Gypsum Creek Road past mile marker 6, Frost Creek, Salt Creek and Bruce Creek.

People in these areas may be asked to evacuate if the fire worsens.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for the areas of Hat Creek, Yeoman State Park, and Fulford.

Those who have immediate needs for relocating livestock should call 970-379-7731. Now is the time to prepare to leave and consider precautionary movement of those with special needs, mobile property and large animals.

Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum may be used as an evacuation center. Both Eagle Valley Middle and Eagle Valley Elementary have been offered up as staging and camp areas for the Forest Service and firefighters.

Hardscrabble Road is completely closed, and the town of Eagle has posted information about fire-related trail closures at TownOfEagle.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=519.

The White River National Forest will enter Stage 2 fire restrictions on Friday.

For the latest information about pre-evacuation or evacuation notices, visit ECEmergency.org for Eagle County and PitkinCounty.com for Pitkin County.

The latest information, including a map of the closure when it is available, will be posted at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7562.

For more information about wildfire smoke visit EPA.gov/smoke-ready-toolbox-wildfires.

Wildland fire breaks out on hillside near Old Snowmass; helicopter on scene dropping water

Fire crews are responding to a wildland fire that started Friday just after 5 p.m. likely from a lightning strike off Highway 82 near Old Snowmass.

Piktin County officials sent an alert about the fire at 5:40 p.m. A helicopter arrived about 6:05 p.m., according to a people in the area, and the first water drop on the fire came at 6:57 p.m.

Julie Royer Manning lives right below the hillside where the fire started and said she heard a loud clap of thunder at 5:05 p.m. and then saw smoke. She said it was not raining at the time.

“I heard this loud boom and it made my dogs jump,” she said when reached at 6 p.m. “It was like a bomb went off.”

Video taken at 6 p.m. of the wildland fire that started Friday afternoon off Highway 82 near Old Snowmass. The road is closed at Gerbaz and Snowmass Canyon due to the fire. https://www.aspentimes.com/news/fire-crews-responding-to-wildland-fire-on-hillside-off-highway-82-near-old-snowmass/

Posted by The Aspen Times on Friday, June 18, 2021

She said she was watching as “big, orange flames” were starting to grow on the hillside.

Royer Manning said the helicopter was pulling water from a large man-made pond her neighbors put in just recently.

Lower River Road reopened about 7:15 p.m. after it was closed at Gerbaz and Snowmass Canyon as crews respond to the area. People are asked to stay away from the road if they can and only call 911 if they have an unrelated emergency and not about the fire.

A helicopter flies over a burning wildfire that broke out on Friday evening from a lightning strike above Lower River Road in Old Snowmass on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

With the heightened concern about human-caused fires, officials in the Roaring Fork Valley and other parts of western Colorado this week have enacted Stage 1 fire restrictions.

A red flag warning is in effect from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday for all of western Colorado and eastern Utah as forecasters at the National Weather Service are calling for scattered thunderstorms with lightning and wind gusts up to 35 mph through Sunday. Temperatures are expect to drop a few degrees this weekend but not for long.

“Conditions may be favorable for easy ignition and rapid spread of fires due to lightning from thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon and low (humidity) and strong gusts on Sunday,” according to the weather service. “Otherwise, dry conditions are expected for much of the new week.”

This is a developing story that will be updated.

Crews suspend search for missing kayaker on Crystal River near Redstone

A kayaker is missing on the Crystal River in the "Meatgrinder" section (seen here) near Redstone, officials said Friday morning.
Heather Marine/Special to Colorado Mountain News Media

Officials have suspended search efforts Friday night for a kayaker who is missing after going into a treacherous section of the Crystal River on Thursday night, an official said Friday evening.

The 41-year-old man — a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen — entered a difficult section of the river called the “Meatgrinder” near the first Highway 133 entrance to Redstone around 8 p.m. Thursday, was pulled under the water and not seen again, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Friday morning.

The man was kayaking with two others at the time and “was released from his kayak,” the Sheriff’s Office said in an update Friday night.

The swift-water search and recovery was conducted all day Friday by crews from the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. Crews used drones Friday to search downstream from the area where he disappeared, he said. They looked from the section north of Redstone down river to the Penny Hot Springs.

“I really think it is far too dangerous to go in (to that section of river Friday morning) and look for him,” DiSalvo said.

By Friday afternoon, crews searching from the riverbank had recovered the man’s boat, though his body had not yet been found, the sheriff said. Authorities were notifying the man’s next of kin Friday and have not yet released his name.

Crews were hoping the water might go down in the late afternoon and provide an opportunity to better scout the rapid for the man’s body, DiSalvo said. The sheriff said just before 6 p.m. that operations were called off for the night and they “will reassess in the morning” the situation and changing conditions.

The Meatgrinder is “fast-paced, stout, and full of sieves and undercuts,” according to the nonprofit river group American Whitewater. The section can be a “high-consequence run” and is known to have a large amount of wood that gets caught on the rocks, according to the group’s online description.

The river was running at about 800 cubic feet per second Thursday night around 8 p.m. and rising, according to the water station operated by the U.S. Geological Survey located just downriver of the Meatgrinder. The river usually flows between 500 and 1,100 Cfs, according to the American Whitewater group, which also says the section of the Crystal “picks up really quick with more flow.”

The Sheriff’s Office update Friday night said the river is running “high and heavy. Conditions in and around the river are dangerous to the public and rescue personnel.”

“From what I understand, this is a pretty dangerous area of rapids on the Crystal,” Jenny Cutright, spokeswoman for Carbondale Fire, said Friday.

DiSalvo also warned boaters to be very cautious in the area of the Meatgrinder.

“All river users have to be very careful of that section of river this time of year,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous section of river.”