Evacuated residents allowed to return home, roads reopen as Grizzly firefighters make progress | SummitDaily.com

Evacuated residents allowed to return home, roads reopen as Grizzly firefighters make progress

The Grizzly Creek fire continues to burn on Monday afternoon, as seen from the air above Glenwood Canyon during a media flyover provided by EcoFlight pilot Bruce Gordon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Justin Baum didn’t need the extra stress of being out of his home in No Name due to the Grizzly Creek Fire evacuations, and starting to teach distance learning lessons Monday for his eighth-grade students at Glenwood Springs Middle School.

So, it was quite a relief when word came at about 4 p.m. Sunday that the evacuation orders for No Name were being lifted and he and his neighbors could return home.

“It was just great to sleep in my own bed again,” said Baum, who also coaches the Glenwood Springs High School cross country team, which had its first meet of the season Saturday. He had been staying with a friend in Carbondale during the evacuation.

“I really noticed the close-knit community No Name has,” he said. “It was great to see how everyone bonded together through all of that.”

The good news kept coming Monday in relation to the Grizzly Creek Fire, including the reopening of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon and the lifting of evacuation orders in several other areas near Glenwood Springs.

The Colorado Department of Transportation announced at daybreak that I-70 was reopening after a two-week closure caused by the fire that started along the freeway on Aug. 10. It has since grown to more than 30,700 acres, and as of late Monday was 33% contained.

Later in the day, Eagle County announced that the backcountry route over Cottonwood Pass between Gypsum and Upper Cattle Creek in Garfield County would be reopened without additional restrictions.

Cottonwood Pass was shut down due to excessive traffic immediately after the I-70 closure and because it was at one point in the fire evacuation area.

“As always, large vehicles should not travel through Cottonwood Pass,” the Eagle County press release stated.

Cottonwood Pass had been opened on a limited basis on Sunday, but only for critical, local passenger vehicle traffic by request.

“Nearly 250 requests were processed between Sunday and Monday morning for authorized use of the pass,” according to the county’s update, leading to the decision to open it fully in conjunction with the interstate reopening.

Additional evacuation orders were lifted Monday afternoon for residents in areas to the south and southwest of the fire in the rural High Aspen, Spring Valley Ranch, Homestead Ranch, Coulter Meadows and Lookout Mountain neighborhoods.

While evacuees were advised that they can return to their homes, they remain on pre-evacuation alert, sheriff’s officials emphasized.

“Smoke from the fire is still visible but is propagating from the higher areas above the canyon rim,” the release stated.

“Area road closures remain in effect, with access for residents and fire traffic only,” the release noted of the Lookout Mountain and upper Spring Valley areas. “Fire crews and trucks will be moving in and out of the area on a regular basis.”

Motorists are asked to take it slow and use extra caution on local roads, and to limit travel as much as possible to keep roads clear for firefighting operations.

“This will allow firefighters to do their work as efficiently and safely as possible,” the release states. “Residents can also expect the smoke to continue, heavy at times, for the next several days.”

Firefighters on Monday were busy on the southeastern side of the fire south of Dotsero, where they initiated a firing operation in the Spruce Ridge area. Burnout operations continued in other sections near the Bair Ranch area on the east side of Glenwood Canyon.

Coffee Pot Road, Transfer Trail roads and areas of the Flattops north of the fire area remain closed.

“Sunday’s hot, dry weather drove fire activity, with unburned areas in the fire perimeter continuing to smolder,” according to the morning fire update from the Great Basin Incident Management Team.

“Fire was active in the morning near Bair Ranch and crews conducted burnout operations to secure containment,” the release stated. “Engines, heavy equipment, air resources and fire crews were utilized to achieve containment objectives on the west, south and east flanks of the fire.

“Existing control lines around the fire perimeter continued to hold, (and) firefighters began mop up operations in some portions of the fire.”

A Burn Area Emergency Response, or BAER, team also continued its environmental assessment work — similar to work they did in the Hanging Lake area recently.

“In addition to mop-up operations, the BAER team will continue their assessment of the fire’s impact on natural resources,” the release stated. “This assessment usually begins before a fire is contained and involves a series of immediate post-fire actions to be taken to repair damages, minimize soil erosion and mitigate impacts from fire suppression activities.”

This story is from the Post Independent. Reach John at jstroud@postindependent.com.

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