Grizzly Creek Fire nearly 20,000 acres – I-70 still closed

PICT Fire retardant drop near the Grizzly Creek Fire in Garfield County
Published Saturday, August 15, 2020
PICT - Kiowa County Press Icon
by Chris Sorensen

The Grizzly Creek Fire in Garfield County grew by 7,000 acres Friday, reaching 19,440 acres burned northeast of Glenwood Springs.

The fire was first reported Monday afternoon, and led to the closure of Interstate 70 along a 24 mile stretch between Gypsum and Glenwood Springs as more than 550 firefighters work in the area to controls the blaze. Independence Pass was also closed as a safety measure due to heavy traffic but has since reopened.

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PICT Grizzly Creek Fire south of the Colorado River
Grizzly Creek Fire south of the Colorado River

As the fire spreads, the Bureau of Land Management has been closing recreation areas, including the Cottonwood Landing and Dotsero boat ramps on the Colorado River. The Lyons campground and boat ramp are also closed.

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MAP BLM recreation area closures due to the Grizzly Creek Fire
BLM recreation area closures due to the Grizzly Creek Fire

Concerns had been raised that the popular Hanging Lake, which is inside the fire's perimeter, had been damaged. Aerial photos taken Thursday show the immediate area around the lake escaped the worst impacts from the fire.

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PICT Hanging Lake as seen from the air August 13, 2020
Hanging Lake as seen from the air August 13, 2020

Firefighter hand and engine crews are working to protect buildings in the Spring Valley, High Aspen and Lookout Mountain areas and create fire lines to help control the fire's spread. Heavy equipment, air tankers and helicopters are also working the blaze as it burns through pinon pine, juniper, and aspen trees, along with oak and sage brush.

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PICT Firefighters building line to help contain the Grizzly Creek Fire
Firefighters building line to help contain the Grizzly Creek Fire

Hot, dry conditions are expected to continue Saturday and Sunday as a high-pressure system builds over the western United States. While some thunderstorms are possible Monday, the best chances for rain come later in the week. Although the storms may bring higher relative humidity, there is also a risk that strong winds produced by the storms could also increase the fire's spread.

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MAP Grizzly Creek Fire perimeter as of August 14, 2020
Grizzly Creek Fire perimeter as of August 14, 2020

An air quality health advisory, issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is in effect for much of northwest Colorado through at least Sunday morning due to smoke from both fires. CDPHE has been issuing advisories on a daily basis. Moderate to heavy smoke could cause breathing difficulty for people with respiratory illnesses, children, and people who are elderly. Outdoor activity should be limited.

Smoke from the fires is also contributing to air quality issues for Colorado's northern front range communities, including Denver, where alerts are also in effect Saturday.

Temporary flight restrictions - which includes drones - are also in place over the fire due to the heavy use of firefighting aircraft to battle the blaze. Flying drones in the area is a safety hazard and illegal during the flight restrictions.

Fire danger in the area remains high, and Stage 2 fire restrictions are in place for Garfield County. Stage 2 restrictions are also in effect for Bureau of Land Management land covered by the Grand Junction Field Office.

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