Massive rock slide on Mount Silverthorne sends up plume of dust, sparks fire fear | SummitDaily.com

Massive rock slide on Mount Silverthorne sends up plume of dust, sparks fire fear

A massive rock slide on Mount Silverthorne at around 10:30 a.m. today kicked up a large plume of white dust that initially had Summit County officials prepping for a possible wildfire.

Bill Jackson, head of the U.S. Forest Service’s Dillon Ranger District, began taking notice of the event from outside his home in the Willowbrook neighborhood in Silverthorne at around 10:45 a.m.

“From my vantage point in Willowbrook it was hard to distinguish between dust and forest fire,” he said.

By 11 a.m., Jackson had called in an engine crew from Minturn and requested that a Forest Service reconnaissance plane from Grand Junction stage a flyover to gather intel. The Grand Junction flight was eventually canceled, however. Instead, Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons, who had also been monitoring the plume with his deputies, had a Flight For Life helicopter cruise over the area to determine what had happened. The crew quickly found that the column of dust was caused by a large slide.

Popular trails, including one leading to Willow and Salmon lakes, were some distance from where the event occurred. However, Mount Silverthorne — know also as Willow Benchmark or the Thorne — is a popular spot for climbing. To ensure no one had been trapped in the slide, the helicopter swept the area. FitzSimons said the crew did not witness any signs of distress and no rescue operations are currently underway. He said it appears that the slide did not go below tree line or destroy any nearby trails.

"It's not everyday you get to see geology in action," Jackson said.

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This story will be updated.

— Ben Trollinger