by Tara Walker
Two fires started in Grand County on Thursday, June 28. The 20 Acre Grand Lake Golf Course Fire was 100% contained by June 30th with no property loss or injuries while the Sugarloaf Fire 13 miles southwest of Fraser has grown to over 1200 acres as of July 3. The Sugarloaf fire was started due to a lightning strike while Police Chief Brett Schroetlin reported on July 2nd that the cause of Golf Course fire was unknown and being investigated.
The Grand Lake Golf Course fire was treated as a higher priority due to the more immediate threat to life and property. Around 300 homes near Columbine Lake subdivision in Grand Lake were evacuated with around 450 residents. Grand Lake Fire Chief Mike Long explained that foresty work and fuel mitigation by the Colorado State Forest service prior to the Grand Lake fire was key to the success as was receiving resources from 5 fire districts. The mutual aid agreement and resource ordering meant that Vail, Steamboat, greater Eagle (Gypsum), Breckenridge and Summit County fire districts assisted with efforts and resources and were a big help according to Chief Long. Chief Long, “The thinning of the beetle kill pines reduced the intensity of the fire and we had some good tactical decisions early on with building the fire line. The County provided bulldozers, water tenders and deputies that conducted the evacuation and provided perimeter security. We couldn’t have done it without the combined effort of many people and the help of the mountain fire districts.”
Two heavy air tankers and two type 3 helicopters assisted with the Golf Course firefighting efforts and timing was crucial. Chief Long reported, “There are a number of active fires now which have impact on resources. With so many fires, available resources are running thin and if we had a fire today, we may not be able to get the air support and heavy tankers that we had last Thursday.”
The Sugarloaf fire is in a remote area south of Byers Peak Wilderness with high beetle kill pine with no roads for access. According to the US Forest Service, the Sugarloaf Fire is being managed under a suppression fire strategy with the number one goal to protect the public and firefighters followed by a secondary goal to protect private and public property and infrastructure.
A K-Max Type-1 Helicopter was available July 4 to drop water on the Sugarloaf fire with the goal of improving the chances of the fire not crossing the main Darling Creek drainage and to slow fire activity on the southwest side of the main fire toward the Henderson Mine. The Forest Service reports that crews continue to work at Ute park Ranch on structure protection and hose lays in continued coordination with Henderson Mill. Mountain Parks Electric and others that face a potential threat from the fire.
Henderson Mill has reported problems of smoke entering their ventilations systems.
Mark Giacoletto is the incident commander and an estimated 53 personnel are currently working on the Sugarloaf fire. While the Sugarloaf fire is currently 1% contained, the Forest service estimates containment by August 31st as of their July 3rd update.