Crews ramp up fight against Glenwood fire
More than 100 firefighters are expected by day’s end on a fire that has burned about 207 acres near Glenwood Springs and made an unnerving run Monday evening in the direction of this town with a history of major blazes.
Glenwood Springs fire chief Gary Tillotson said he’s feeling “a little more confident” this morning about the prospects for battling the fire after its activity subsided overnight.
“We were able to get on it pretty early this morning. By working with some hand crews and retardant drops this morning I think we can secure some of the areas of line that are more critical to us,” he said.
No evacuation orders have been issued. The fire was 0 percent contained as of 7 a.m. today.
What’s called a Type II interagency incident command team is expected to assume control of the firefighting effort today. That’s a higher-capability team than the Type III team that the fire’s size and complexity warrants, but it’s what currently is available due to resources being scattered across the West right now, Tillotson said.
One aircraft from Rifle had begun retardant drops this morning and two more were en route from Wyoming, Tillotson. About 50 firefighters are currently on the scene, including two crews from the Rifle Correctional Center. Two Hot Shot crews are on order, he said.
Tillotson said the aircraft would be focusing on the fire’s northern edge, which heads toward town.
The fire was reported early Monday afternoon near Red Canyon Road south of Glenwood Springs and east of Colorado Highway 82. Crews initially were concerned about homes in rural subdivisions there, but then high winds drove the fire away from them and north, up the flanks of Lookout Mountain.
“Unfortunately that direction of travel was toward Glenwood Springs,” Tillotson said.
He said a wind shift with gusts of probably 30 to 35 mph led to perhaps 50 acres burning “in a very short period of time” and sending up a large smoke plume.
“I don’t want to call it a blow-up, but (it was) pretty close,” he said.
While the fire mostly traveled along the ridge east of town, Tillotson was concerned by a few “slop” fires threatening to drop into Glenwood Springs.
“We had pretty constant winds pushing toward town and we were starting to see some spotting activity,” he said.
He said emergency agency phones “were pretty much ringing off the hook” with calls from concerned residents as the fire grew.
Glenwood’s history of fires includes the 1994 blaze that killed 14 firefighters on Storm King Mountain just west of town and the 2002 Coal Seam Fire, which destroyed about 30 homes.
Tillotson said Monday’s run by the fire died down when winds subsided and it reached the ridge. Also helping was that it entered an area of lighter fuel, thanks in part because that area had been the site of an old burn.
While showers fell in other parts of Garfield County, the fire received just a very light sprinkling of rain Monday night.
Such scattered showers have been typical in the Glenwood Springs area this summer, leaving many areas still prime for catching fire.
Firefighters haven’t had a chance to look into the fire’s cause yet, but Tillotson said it began in a remote location and it probably was started by lightning. Thunderstorms have moved through the area in recent days, he said.
Today’s forecast called for the possibility of further thunderstorms and for winds again possibly as high as 35 mph.
Tillotson said officials plan to use the local emergency notification system if needed to alert residents about the fire. People who want to sign up, including for notification over their cell phones, can visit http://www.garco911.org.