UPDATE: Glenwood water diversion shut off at No Name; areas south of river being evacuated due to Grizzly Creek Fire
UPDATE 8:15 p.m. Tuesday — Additional evacuations and closures have been ordered on the Eagle County side of the Grizzly Creek Fire.
Cottonwood Pass is now closed to all through traffic in both Eagle and Garfield counties, and the Coulter Creek area has been ordered by the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office to evacuate.
UPDATE 7 p.m. Tuesday — The Grizzly Creek Fire has grown to 3,200 acres, and now involves 211 personnel and a barrage of air tankers and helicopters to fight what has become the highest priority fire in the nation.
Interstate 70 remains closed through the night Tuesday, with the possibility of an extended closure through the week, the Colorado Department of Transportation is advising.
“Hot, dry weather combined with dry fuels and a windy afternoon pushed the Grizzly Creek Fire in multiple directions,” the latest press release from incident command stated at 7 p.m. “The fire crossed the Colorado River and Interstate 70 this afternoon, establishing itself on the south side.”
Within the canyon most of the firefighting effort took place from the air. Air support includes two Very Large Air Tankers (VLAT), multiple Large Air Tankers, four heavy helicopters and one medium helicopter
“Firefighters are conducting preparation work in the evacuated communities and Shoshone Power Plant, evaluating structures and helping create defensible space where practical,” according to the Tuesday night news release.
Firefighters also observed the Flattops area above the fire, scouting possible containment areas and clearing any campers or other recreationists from the area. U.S Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands surrounding the fire area are currently closed.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
UPDATE 4:20 p.m. Tuesday — The city of Glenwood Springs has shut off the No Name water diversion source and is pumping water from the Roaring Fork River pump station due to the Grizzly Creek Fire.
“This is out of an abundance to caution to protect the water supply from fire retardant being used on the Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon,” according to a city press release. “Residents are asked to refrain from watering lawns for the next 48 hours. Additional restrictions may be issued later.”
The city has notified large water users in the area and restricted consumption and residents are being asked to conserve water used for irrigation, according to the release.
“Glenwood Springs water consumers may notice a slight change in taste due to the change in water source to the Roaring Fork River.”
The city operates a community water supply system that supplies drinking water to 9,614 residents, and obtains its drinking water from three surface water intakes in the Colorado River watershed.
For more information on the city’s water sources and source protection plans please visit: http://www.ci.glenwood-springs.co.us/196/Water
UPDATE 2:30 p.m. Tuesday — The Grizzly Creek Fire Incident Command has reported that the fire is moving uphill on the south side of the Colorado River. The command has expanded evacuation notices to include the residents of Lookout Mountain as well as a pre-evacuation of Bair Ranch.
UPDATE 1 p.m. Tuesday — The Grizzly Creek Fire Incident Command has directed an evacuation notice for the residents of No Name. The Glenwood Springs Community Center is the emergency relocation point and shelter at this time, according to the latest from the fire command.
UPDATE 12 p.m. Tuesday — The Interstate 70 safety closure remains in effect until further notice to allow Colorado Department of Transportation crews to assess two bridges located near where the Grizzly Creek Fire started on Monday.
There is also now increased rockfall hazard in Glenwood Canyon.
“Both assessments are taking place today. Rockfall has been reported and is likely due to burned vegetation no longer holding rocks in place,” CDOT advised in a late morning press release.
Traffic is still advised to take detour routes to the south via U.S. 50, 24 and 285, and to the north via U.S. 40 and Colorado 139 or 13.
“CDOT has paused some construction projects to allow for detour traffic,” according to the release.
Stay off Cottonwood and Independence passes
Cottonwood Pass between Garfield and Eagle counties was closed Tuesday morning after a semi overturned around 3 a.m. when the driver attempted to navigate the steep, narrow, dirt road.
Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron advised county commissioners in a morning briefing that when Cottonwood Pass reopens only smaller vehicles capable of maneuvering the tight roadway should attempt the route.
“And you can expect some serious traffic,” he said.
CDOT says to avoid Cottonwood Pass altogether, except for local traffic only.
“CDOT asks that motorists not use Cottonwood Pass or Independence Pass as detour routes, as these roads are not built for heavy traffic or commercial oversize vehicles,” CDOT said in its latest release.
Vehicles over 35 feet in length, including semi-tractor trailers, are prohibited on Independence Pass at any time. The restriction also includes a vehicle and trailer that, together, exceed 35 feet, CDOT advises.
UPDATE 10:30 a.m. Tuesday — More than 120 firefighters are now working the Grizzly Creek Fire, with more resources on the way, according to the latest update from the Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management command.
“Firefighters are working to keep the fire out of the No Name drainage as well as on the north side of the Colorado River,” according to the latest post. “Terrain is very rugged, limiting where we can safely put firefighters on the ground.
“Crews are focusing on point protection in the No Name area on the west side, including accessing structures and prepping areas should the fire reach the area.”
The No Name area remains on pre-evacuation notice, and residents are asked to be prepared to leave in the event the fire moves in that direction.
Firefighting crews are also working on point protection in the Shoshone area to the east of the fire. Aircraft continues to work the fire from above.
Firefighters are scouting areas for containment lines on top in the Flattops, and evacuating campers and other recreationists from the Coffee Pot Road area and other areas in the Forest Service closure area north of the fire.
The fire is still reported to be at 1,300 acres, but a more accurate acreage estimate was expected after a morning mapping flight.
“We expect fire activity to increase as the day warms and the humidity drops,” according to the latest Facebook update.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Grizzly Creek Fire incident command says that Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon is to remain closed in both directions between Glenwood Springs and Gypsum until further notice.
“We will have more information after morning briefings. We do not have an estimated time for reopening,” according to a Tuesday morning post to the official incident Facebook page.
Regular fire updates will be posted there, and the latest on the I-70 closures and suggested alternate routes can be found at http://www.cotrip.org.
The Colorado Department of Transportation advises that the backcountry Cottonwood Pass dirt road is not to be used as a bypass. The I-70 closure is also intended to allow for inspection of the elevated westbound section where the fire burned, and to check for rockfall hazards within the fire area.
“The fire was active last night,” the latest post announced. “The community of No Name is under pre-evacuation, which means residents should be ready to evacuate.”
The fire started at about 1:30 p.m. Monday in the median between the eastbound and the elevated westbound lanes near the Grizzly Creek rest area and hiking trail, five miles east of Glenwood Springs. It involved about 60 firefighters and numerous aircraft.
This story is from the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. This is a developing story and will be updated.
Story from Monday, Aug. 10 from The Aspen Times:
Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon east of Glenwood Springs was to remain closed in both directions through Monday night into Tuesday, as firefighters continued to battle the Grizzly Creek Fire that broke out along the freeway earlier in the day.
The fire started about 1:30 p.m. Monday in the median between the eastbound lanes and the elevated westbound lanes at mile marker 120, near the Grizzly Creek Rest and Recreation area.
By early evening, about 60 firefighters and numerous aircraft had responded to the 1,300-acre wildfire, located about five miles east of Glenwood Springs, fire officials reported on the incident command website set up by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. There are no immediate threats to structures and no evacuations are in place, according to an 11 p.m. update Monday.
Grizzly Creek Fire operations, which are mostly from the air, concluded for Monday night and are to begin again Tuesday morning, fire incident command advised at about 8:30 p.m. in its final Facebook post for the evening.
“The (I-70) safety closure is to allow CDOT specialists to assess two bridges located near where the Grizzly Creek Fire started, as well as increased rockfall hazard in Glenwood Canyon,” according to a CDOT press release issued at 7:45 p.m. Monday.
Rockfall from the fire area already had been reported, and is likely due to burned vegetation no longer holding rocks in place, CDOT advised in the release.
The Interstate 70 closure has been extended in both directions between mile markers 116 (Glenwood Springs) and 140 (Gypsum).
At about 5:38 p.m. the Grizzly Creek Fire Facebook page said the Grizzly Creek Fire had grown to 1,300 acres with more than 60 firefighters on scene. Firefighters were using heavy air attack with four heavy air tankers, two single engine air tankers (SEAT) and a Type I and Type III helicopter.
David Boyd, Public Information Officer for the interagency response, said the fire is burning mostly on U.S. Forest Service Land on the north side of Interstate 70.
The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit has taken lead on the incident, but multiple local and federal emergency response agencies are involved, Boyd said.
“That is super-rugged country, so it’s not a place we can safely put firefighters on the ground, so we have been fighting it from the air,” he said.
The large plum of smoke is visible from parts the Roaring Fork Valley and as far west as Rifle.
Several rafters and guides had to be evacuated from the different parts of the canyon when the fire broke out, and hikers were escorted down from Hanging Lake and shuttled to the east side of Glenwood Canyon.
“Our number one goal was to get everyone off the trail as soon as we heard about the fire, because it’s a 45-minute hike back down,” said Ken Murphy, co-owner of H2O Ventures, which runs the Hanging Lake hiking permit reservation system.
Hikers are currently limited to 200 per day due to the COVID-19 restrictions, and no shuttle is in service. Murphy did not immediately know how many hikers were on the trail at the time the fire broke out.
Once to their cars in the trailhead parking lot, Colorado Department of Transportation crews worked to get motorists redirected onto eastbound I-70. There’s only a westbound entrance to I-70 from Hanging Lake, Murphy noted.
“We have an emergency plan in place for just something like this, and it worked,” he said. “We were cleared and done pretty quickly, and got everyone out safe.”
Hikers were also asked to leave the Grizzly Creek and No Name trails located in Glenwood Canyon as the fire began to spread.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park shut down Monday afternoon due to impacts from the fire, park co-owner Steve Beckley said.
“We kept having power outages that affected the rides, so we sent everyone down,” he said. “We will be open (Tuesday).”
City of Glenwood Springs spokeswoman Hannah Klausman confirmed that the fire initially knocked out power in Glenwood Springs. She said the city was able to work with Xcel Energy to circuit around the fire area, and the power was restored shortly before 3 p.m.
Glenwood Springs Fire Department initially responded to the wildfire at mile marker 120 on eastbound Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon at about 1:30 p.m. The interstate was soon closed in both directions.
Evacuations were in progress for Bair Ranch and Grizzly Creek, mostly involving motorists stopped at the two rest areas and people using the river access and trails in the area.
The fire quickly burned from the median to the north side of I-70 and rapidly spread up the steep hillside in the canyon.
One helicopter initially responded to the scene, followed by four heavy air tankers.
CDOT strongly advises that Cottonwood Pass is not an alternate route for any type of vehicle, and that Highway 82 over Independence Pass has a prohibition on vehicles over 35 feet in length, including semis.
Due to the interstate closure, LIFT-UP canceled its Carbondale food distribution Monday afternoon. Distributions are still scheduled for Tuesday in Parachute, Wednesday in New Castle and Thursday in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, according to a press release.
This story is from The Aspen Times.
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