Fire Update meeting tonight, Friday, Sept. 14 at 7pm at Old Park Fire Station

0
1102
Erick Stahlin, Silver Creek Fire type 3 incident commander, addresses the crowd at the fire update at the Old Park Firestation, Thursday, Sept. 13. The Blue Team, a type 2 incident command, will take control of the fire today.
Erick Stahlin, Silver Creek Fire type 3 incident commander, addresses the crowd at the fire update at the Old Park Firestation, Thursday, Sept. 13. The Blue Team, a type 2 incident command, will take control of the fire today.
  • Costs of fire estimated to be over $15 million to date.
  • The fire has reached over 7000 acres.
  • Fire crews are seeing Aspens burn.
  • 2000 cattle could be affected.
  • The fire has reached state lands and Hickenlooper signed an executive order to give our county financial aid.
  • Blue Team/Type 2 incident command will return today and will use Fairgrounds as incident command.
  • Firefighting efforts are hampered by high winds, high temperatures, and low humidity.
  • The county is in Stage 1 Fire Restrictions again – areas near the fire are in Stage 3 Fire Restrictions.

High, hot winds have caused the Silver Creek Fire to grow and acreage is now estimated to be over 7000 acres, and it has moved onto Colorado state lands allowing Governor John Hickenlooper to issue an executive order to bring more financial support to Grand County to help fight the fire based on its impact to the community.

The Blue Team, the Type 2 Incident Management Team will return to the Silver Creek Fire on Friday, September 14.  The incident command will be at the fairgrounds. With a Type 2 Incident Management Team, more resources are also assigned to the fire.

The area from Rabbit Ears Village to the Old Park subdivision are in pre-evacuation orders while Latigo Ranch was evacuated.

“Essentially we have gone into a high flag warning,” said Grand County’s Office of Emergency Management and Chief of EMS Ray Jennings. “I requested a pre-evac order of the Old Park area today, and one of the reasons is one of our management points was Latigo Ranch, and Latigo Ranch got surrounded by fire today.” 

Jennings explained the fire is blowing north/northeast but because of the unpredictability of high winds he needed the residents in the area to continue to be vigilant.

Public safety, firefighter safety and protection of private property are the main goals of the firefighting efforts, “We have lost no structures at this time,” said Grand County’s Chief of Emergency Management and EMS, Ray Jennings.

Jennings also mentioned protective plans are also in place for the 2000 cattle along Highway 40 and that the cattle will be driven across Highway 40 to meadows there if the fire continues to spread.

Type 3 Incident Commander Erick Stahlin told the crowd gathered at the at the Old Park Fire Station, “We are in a fire fight right now, and we have been tested the past of couple days, … we are continuing to be tested with the weather coming in… We are doing our due diligence to keep the fire within its existing line, but when you have Mother Nature flexing her muscles like she is right now with high winds, low relative humidity and hot temperatures that raises the probability of ignition.”  He surmised the probability of ignitions was at 100%. 

Stahlin continued, “Relative humidity bottomed out at 7%… weather alignment with the fuels and topography have caused the rapid fire growth we have been seeing. 

It first started yesterday [Wednesday, September 12] at the north end when the fire came out of the wilderness area where it was laying down and looked really good…  The fire came out of there with such velocity, we mustered resources to try and engage the fire and rapidly noticed that we were not able to to engage the fire.”  He then explained they went into protective mode and evaluated their resources and their placement.  They began to evacuate hunting camps and hunters who were in front of the fire.

“Typically, we see the aspen stands don’t burn, but we are seeing them burn right now,” highlighted Stahlin of the severity of the situation.  In addition to the timber, the north end of the fire is also be fed by grasses and sagebrush. 

On the south side of the fire, Stahlin explained, “We were holding it within its existing lines – the interior islands that were burning out did start to develop again. We tried with our Type 1 helicopters to squash those, and we were somewhat successful until about 2 o’clock [Thursday, September 13] when the fire spotted across Red Dirt Reservoir and onto the other side.”

Of the extreme fire behavior, Stahlin commented, “We are seeing this fire propagate by the spot fires it is throwing out in front of it. We are seeing spot fires as far as ¾ mile. The embers get lofted in the air, travel down, and now we have another fire. That intensity builds up and continues to grow.”

Stahlin began requesting additional resources Wednesday of this week. Five hand crews including the Alpine Hot Shots, who worked the Silver Creek Fire previously, and additional air assets arrived. Type 1 helicopters, that are able to carry 700-800 gallons of water have been filling up at Red Mountain Reservoir, and 737 air tankers, that drop 3000 gallons of retardant and only take 22 minutes to fly to Grand Junction to fill-up, are also being utilized.  In addition, smaller planes, multi-mission aircraft (MMA) and Air Attacks are being used.  The MMAs map the fire and use thermal imagery to locate all the hot spots while Air Attack finds a safe route and location to drop the fire retardants, guide the air tankers in, and checks their drop accuracy. 

Three dozers are also being used.

Fire fighting efforts have been estimated to now be at $15-17 million. 

“This fire is going to smolder until the snow flies,” reminded Jennings who explained that Grand County is now in Stage 1 fire restrictions again, but that the area affected by the fire is in a Stage 3 fire restriction which means that absolutely nothing with a flame or potential fire risk is allowed.