by Amanda Stradley
Fire personnel has been stationed at the Muddy Creek Trailhead located in Medicine Bow National Forest for less than 20 days, working to suppress the Silver Creek Fire. Last week, the fire crossed into Grand County from Routt County and is currently spanning over 2000 acres. Currently, the fire perimeter is 5 percent contained on the northern area of the fire.
Though the fire spans 2061 acres, portions of the fire have moved through the treetops with more significant burn in areas. However, according to Jackie Parks, information officer for the Silver Creek Fire, “The fire mainly consists of smoldering areas, with spot fires of single tree or small tree group torching’s.” These spot fires are created by flying sparks or embers typically from wind changes and can burn erratically depending on weather and terrain conditions.
When lightning struck on July 19, 2018, the fire crew was small with 40 people on the scene. Dry, hot and windy weather conditions pushed the fire fast into the rugged terrain of heavy timber, which required additional resources. Fire crews are now at 164 people, with 3 Hotshot crews, six engines and three helicopters. Crews are driving about 16 miles from the Muddy Creek Trailhead and hiking 1.5 miles to get into areas of the fire perimeter.
Crews have been faced with difficult rural terrain consisting of steep slopes, the heavy downfall of dead and weak lodgepole pine and the unpredictable nature of the fire, which can jump locations and create new burn areas. Helicopters are being used to suppress hot spots in areas where the terrain is too steep and dangerous by foot. Helicopter crews have been using water Red Dirt.
Reservoir, with over 250,000 gallons used so far. Rains this past weekend helped to suppress areas of the fire allowing crews to continue mitigation efforts and the ability to get into more difficult areas to create fire breaks. According to Rod Skalsky, chief of operations for the Silver Creek Fire, efforts have been removing vegetation with a dozer, creating cleared fire lines and hand crews have been putting in handlines of hoses.
This week’s change in the weather of hot and dry conditions has given fire officials anticipation for additional spot fires. Not everything has burned by the fire, and according to fire officials, this isn’t uncommon. Flavio Gallegos states, “there’s always the potential for growth, but the potential is smaller than last week and as of today, the fire hasn’t progressed with new growth.” Parks continues this sentiment with, “changes in the weather, hotter and drier conditions, fire is a force of nature. We believe we’ve made good progress on our hand lines and contingency lines, we are prepared, and we anticipate weather changes such as wind and thunderstorms.”
Helicopters are in the air for recon efforts, watching for hot spots and crews are stationed in high areas to also overlook the area for smoke.
Currently, Flavio Gallegos, incident command trainee, has concentrated the fire crew on the south side of the fire where current structures reside. Latigo Ranch, one of Grand County’s dude ranches, is nestled approximately 4 miles from the southern perimeter of the fire. Additionally, Old Park Subdivision, an unincorporated community, 12 miles from Kremmling, is located about 6 miles from the fire’s southern perimeter. Dozer lines have been created along the south side perimeter to create fire breaks among additional mitigation efforts. “Our values at risk are private property, grazing lands, and the cattle on them,” Parks said.
Though there haven’t been any evacuations or structure protection orders, Kevin Thompson, Routt National Forest fire management officer, has met with Grand County Emergency Personnel for evacuation planning if required later.
Despite the Silver Creek Fire with 5 percent containment on the northern area of the fire, Parks expresses that “It doesn’t mean that we haven’t made progress, containment isn’t considered until the incident commander is assured that the fire won’t move past that line.”