A firefighting helicopter draws water from Dillon Reservoir on Friday, June 11, to drop on the nearby Straight Creek Fire.
Photo by Elaine Collins
No structures are threatened by fire near Interstate 70
Three small wildfires in less than 24 hours have Summit County fire officials worried.
Things got started Thursday, June 10, when local fire districts increased the fire danger level from low to very high — something Summit Fire & EMS spokesperson Steve Lipsher said he has never seen.
“In one day, we jumped three levels; we skipped moderate and high,” Lipsher said Thursday. “… Our humidity is really low for whatever reason. We’re dry, dry, dry.”
Since then, officials have responded to multiple reports of fire ignitions.
Summit Fire crews responded to a small grass fire in Dillon near the Red Mountain Grill on Thursday. Lipsher said officials believe the fire was started when power lines touching each other sent a shower of sparks to the ground, but the fire never grew more than a couple of yards in size. That blaze was quickly extinguished by nearby residents.
Then on Thursday afternoon, crews responded to the Straight Creek Fire, which ignited off Interstate 70 between Dillon and the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels. The fire grew to an estimated 15 or 20 acres Thursday, and crews worked to contain it throughout the night. As of Friday morning, White River National Forest spokesperson David Boyd said the fire hadn’t been very active but that he expected it to ramp up as the day warmed and winds increased.
During the “burn window,” or the time of day when the fire was most critical, Boyd said a helicopter was getting water from Dillon Reservoir to douse the area, which significantly helped contain the burn.
By Friday evening, Boyd reported that after conducting a heat signature on the area, the fire was actually 8 acres in size. As of 5 p.m. Friday, the fire was 30% contained and crews were still making progress. In addition to the helicopter, Boyd said other aircraft were targeting specific areas of the blaze.
“We also had a light helicopter that came in with a bucket and can be really precise, working with firefighters on the ground and identifying trees on fire,” Boyd said.
Boyd said containment efforts would likely occur for the next couple of days.
“Some people might see 8 acres and think that’s not much, but it’s a lot of potential as we were coming into the afternoon burn period where the winds were picking up,” Boyd said. “Having the helicopters really helped keep it at 8 acres.”
Boyd said the cause of the fire is still under investigation and that he is not aware of any injuries. There is currently no immediate threat to structures.
Despite no homes nearby, Summit Fire posted on Facebook that there is some “valuable infrastructure at risk,” including a power line, a gas line, the Dillon water supply and the interstate.
Boyd said there are about 65 crew members on-site to help with containment efforts, which include three engine crews and three helicopters from the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management unit’s Type 3 Incident Management Team.
The fire, located near milepost 209, caused the eastbound lanes of I-70 to close at Silverthorne Exit 205 on Thursday evening. Late Thursday, the exit reopened and currently remains open, though Boyd said it’s possible the fire still could cause road closures.
A Twitter post from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office on Friday afternoon said additional resources are being deployed to the blaze, including two Hotshot crews.
More resources are arriving to assist in fighting the Straight Creek Fire east of Dillon, Colorado. pic.twitter.com/QNSiOacGwc
— SCSOPIO (@SummitSheriffCO) June 11, 2021
In addition, another fire popped up in Silverthorne on Friday morning at Stephens Way along the Blue River Trail. Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said by the time he arrived at the scene, the fire was largely taken care of.
Lipsher said the Silverthorne fire was human-caused but that it is still under investigation.
“It just seems to be one thing after another,” Lipsher said.
Fire crew is on scene on Stephens Way along the bike path. pic.twitter.com/W4PH65vPz1
— Town of Silverthorne (@SilverthorneCO) June 11, 2021
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