UPDATE: Summit County crews fight Frey Gulch Fire near landfill in Dillon
October 8, 2016
Correction: This story has been corrected from an earlier version that stated, “One of the difficulties in fighting the fire was that the U.S. Forest Service seasonal crews stopped working on Oct. 1.” In fact, while staffing may decrease after peak fire season, the U.S. Forest Service does maintain fire resources throughout the year, and can call for additional resources from local and regional dispatch centers in case of emergency.
Shortly after noon on Saturday, Oct. 8, a wildfire was spotted above the shooting range in Dillon.
Lake Dillon Fire and Rescue as well as Red, White & Blue Fire were on the scene to try and put out the fire. As of 3 p.m. that day, firefighters were unsure what had caused it. The Summit County Sheriff's Office will be handling the investigation into the cause of the Frey Gulch Fire. Preliminary estimates put the fire at 15-20 acres.
Steve Lipsher, the public information officer with Lake Dillon Fire said that the amount of smoke coming from the fire was deceptive and that it wasn't quite as big as it looked.
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Lipsher said that the fire was on National Forest Service land, and was on an uphill, making it difficult for them to fight the fire. Snow earlier in the week had lowered the risk of wildfires, making Saturday's blaze somewhat of a surprise.
Lake Dillon Fire and Red, White and Blue Fire fighting wildfire above Summit County landfill. pic.twitter.com/J0NNUPzZ81
— Lake Dillon Fire (@lakedillonfire) October 8, 2016
There were 23 firefighters on duty at the start of the fire, from both local entities as well as crews from Vail and Northwest Fire in Park County. That number nearly doubled when the Alta Hot Shots team arrived from Utah. The firefighters were using an indirect technique to combat the fire. This meant using hoses to ensure embers were completely out and making sure they were prepared if the fire changed directions.
"It looks like we're not doing a lot, and it's because we can't safely get firefighters above the fire," Lipsher said.
— Summit Daily News (@SummitDailyNews) October 8, 2016
In order to help with containment, Lipsher said they had requested a helicopter for air support.
Just below the shooting range is a large power station, and while Lipsher said that it was unlikely that the fire would come back down in that direction, it was something the team of firefighters were trying to be aware of.
Another issue was that the area the fire started in was full of dry timber from beetle kill trees. Lipsher said it is what's called a "dirty fire." With dry timber, firefighters have to be just as cautious of falling trees as they are with open flames.
The fire did not seem to be moving and was not in immediate danger of damaging homes or other structures. This was one of the main reasons firefighters were taking an indirect approach to controlling the fire.
"There's nothing at stake at this point to put our firefighters at risk," Lipsher said.
At 3:45 p.m. Lipsher said a helicopter would be arriving soon and that they would be closing Highway 6 from Swan Mountain Road to Summerwood Drive so that the helicopter could get water from Lake Dillon Reservoir and transport it back to the fire. Once the U.S. Forest Service Type 1 helicopter arrived from Canon City, it helped firefighter gain the upper hand on the blaze. A press release from Lake Dillon Fire and Rescue said the water from the helicopter has helped limit the spread of the fire, but makes no mention of containment. At 6 p.m. command of the fire will be given to a federal team. According the press release, it is expected to take multiple days to control the fire.