Grizzly Creek hearth: Flames burn by way of Glenwood Canyon, triggering rockfalls alongside I-70 hall

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GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Spindles of smoke drifted all through Glenwood Canyon on Monday morning, even within the crevices of rock partitions the place it appeared nothing ought to have the ability to burn.
But pine bushes and different plants clinging to the partitions — and to life — smoldered because the Grizzly Creek hearth continued its rampage alongside the Interstate 70 hall in Garfield and Eagle counties.
On the trail to the favored Hanging Lake trailhead, hearth had scorched the grass on one facet of the pavement and it continued to smolder up the crimson cliffs, inflicting bushes to topple and rocks to slip onto the walkway. On the Colorado River facet, flames flared, sending plumes of black and white smoke billowing all through the canyon.
The path is simply too harmful to tackle foot, however hearth spotters flying overhead imagine Hanging Lake, to date, has not suffered main harm.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostGreat Basin Nationwide Incident Administration One Staff Public Info Officers Wayne Patterson, left, and Mike Ferris, middle, try rock fall that fell from excessive cliffs inflicting harm onto I-70 beneath making it harmful for passing automobiles through the Grizzly Creek Hearth in Glenwood Canyon on Aug. 17, 2020 close to Glenwood Springs.
It will likely be a while earlier than anybody enjoys the 1.2-mile hike to the lake, mentioned Wayne Patterson, a spokesman for the Grizzly Creek firefighting group. Though Hanging Lake is a state treasure, it’s not the precedence for firefighters. They’re furiously attempting to forestall the hearth from leaping No Title Canyon, the primary watershed and supply of consuming water for your entire Glenwood Springs neighborhood.
“Areas like this develop into a second precedence regardless of their significance to the neighborhood,” Patterson mentioned of the Hanging Lake space. “There shall be points with attempting to open this path and getting it protected for individuals to be on.”
As of Monday morning, the Grizzly Creek hearth had burned greater than 25,000 acres, and it reveals no indicators of slowing as scorching, dry climate continues in Colorado.
It stays the No. 1 firefighting precedence in the USA as a result of it has closed Interstate 70, threatens housing and important infrastructure, together with the Shoshone energy plant, and desires complicated firefighting technique due to its location in a canyon with steep partitions, mentioned Mike Ferris, one other public data officer working with hearth crews.
Grizzly Creek — named after the placement the place it began on Aug. 10 — is one in every of 4 giant wildfires burning in Colorado. Mixed, they’ve consumed greater than 130,000 acres, or 203 sq. miles.
These wildfires come as federal officers this month designated 100% of Colorado as abnormally dry or underneath drought circumstances for the primary time in eight years, a part of a 20-year shift towards higher aridity throughout the state amid ongoing local weather warming.
“Hold the hearth on the opposite facet”
In Glenwood Canyon, there’s no estimated timeframe for reopening I-70. As soon as the hearth is out, engineers might want to assess harm from the hearth’s warmth and rock slides which have littered the street with particles. In a single spot, a boulder crashed by way of the guardrail, leaving a car-sized hole above a steep drop-off into the Colorado River.
For now, the Colorado Division of Transportation is holding the interstate clear for firefighting visitors, and engineers haven’t gone it to evaluate harm, mentioned Elise Thatcher, a CDOT spokeswoman.
“It’s too early to estimate the harm at this level,” she mentioned. “It’s an evolving scenario.”
One part of the westbound higher deck now’s getting used as a dipping station for helicopters dropping hearth retardant all through the canyon. Helicopters on Monday took turns dipping buckets right into a 17,000-gallon pot of shiny crimson retardant. Others scooped water straight out of the Colorado River earlier than roaring up No Title to beat again flames. Seventeen helicopters have been within the air Monday, Ferris mentioned.
“They’re attempting actually arduous to maintain the hearth on the opposite facet,” Patterson mentioned. “We’re working helicopters up there as quick as we will throughout sunlight hours.”
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostA Sikorsky Skycrane heads out after filling up with water from the Colorado River because it makes water drops on the Grizzly Creek Hearth fills on the east finish of Glenwood Canyon on Aug. 17, 2020 close to Glenwood Springs.
“It’s going to come back down”
Hotshot crews labored to guard locations vital to the world’s tourism financial system, together with the Glenwood Caverns Journey Park and Bair Ranch, an out of doors recreation resort. Climate circumstances on Monday morning favored firefighters and “that permits you to make the most of that second in time,” Patterson mentioned.
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At the same time as hearth burned alongside the canyon partitions, crews drove by way of taking a look at harm to bridges and railroad traces. Union Pacific is attempting to get the tracks open this week for freight trains, Ferris mentioned. Amtrak’s passenger trains are suspended indefinitely.
In the meantime, the hearth burning by way of the Hanging Lake pure space gives a view of what it’s like all through the 25,000-acre burn space. Smoke billows in some areas after which rises in wisps in others. At instances, a pop louder than a firecracker indicators a tree is falling after which sliding rocks kick up crimson mud as they rumble down a steep cliff.
And as soon as the hearth is out, the harm will take time to restore. Bushes and vegetation that maintain the panorama collectively are weakened or gone. Massive rocks are scattered alongside roads and trails. Phone poles are burned. Heavy snowfall and quick snowmelts might deliver extra landslides onto I-70 and onto the Hanging Lake recreation space.
“You possibly can think about when that will get a heavy snow on it, it’s going to come back down,” Patterson mentioned as he regarded on the rubble all through the canyon. “It’s inevitable.”

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