GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. – The Grizzly Creek Fire grew to 25,690 acres by Sunday morning, with 0% containment, after another active weekend of burning throughout Glenwood Canyon.
On Sunday, firefighters were continuing structure protection efforts near the gondola at Adventure Park and work to keep the fire south of Coffee Pot Road. Direct attack of the fire has remained difficult because of the terrain, but crews will attack the fire where they can.
As of Sunday evening, 625 crewmembers were working the Grizzly Creek Fire, and I-70 remained closed.
Officials on Sunday evening emphasized the high priority to reopen the interstate but said they'd have to ensure there is not active fire in the canyon. As of Sunday, there were still hotspots burning along the highway. The roadway is also littered with debris, from falling rock to trees that have burned throughout the canyon.
No timetable for the reopening of the highway has been given.
Watch the fire officials' full update from Sunday evening:
On Saturday, fire lines held in No Name and did not spread across the drainage, but the fire ran on its slightly on its southeast side, fire managers said. The fire was 14,663 acres on Friday morning.
#TeamCDOT took these photos of the #GrizzlyCreekFire on I-70 last night. Thank you for being patient during the closure. Smoke from wildfires is a major issue in many places around the state, please be careful while driving or recreating outside. #knowbeforeyougo pic.twitter.com/Lr222m1sP2— CDOT (@ColoradoDOT) August 15, 2020
On Saturday, structure protection efforts continued Spring Valley, High Aspen, Lookout Mountain, No Name, the Shoshone Power Station, Bair Ranch and Dotsero – with bulldozers and hand crews digging fire lines, officials said.
Fire crews clear cutting around a ranch in Glenwood Canyon to protect it against the #GrizzlyCreekFire. Officials say the flames reaching the perimeter are “not a matter of if but when.” pic.twitter.com/S9Hhns3nVJ— Sloan Dickey Denver7 (@SloanDickey) August 15, 2020
Crews are expecting hot and dry weather, with low relative humidity, and moderate winds – which helped firefighting efforts on Friday.
Helicopter crews were able to continuously drop water on the fire as of early Saturday afternoon because the winds were favorable.
These helicopters carry 800 gallons of water. Officials say that, right now, the winds are light enough that 2 helicopters are able to continuously drop on the #GrizzlyCreekFire using water from the Colorado River. pic.twitter.com/Cy61XauC2o— Sloan Dickey Denver7 (@SloanDickey) August 15, 2020
The Bureau of Land Management has closed recreational sites and boat ramps on the southern side of the Colorado River near Dotsero, including the Cottonwood Landing ramp, Lyons campground and ramp, and the Dotsero ramp.
The supervisor of the White River National Forest said Friday evening that the initial aerial assessment done earlier in the day showed that much of Hanging Lake was not severely burned Thursday when the Grizzly Creek Fire moved through, though the area above the lake burned “intensely.”
A base for helicopters to refill on fire retardant was set up Friday on I-70 near No Name and a new helicopter base was stood up in Glenwood Springs. Glenwood Springs on Friday also suspended all non-emergency flights at the Glenwood Springs Airport until further notice so it could be used for fire operations.
I-70 remains closed until further notice between Glenwood Springs and Gypsum. The workaround for most drivers is U.S. 50 east to U.S. 285 for those coming east from Grand Junction, and CO 9 to U.S. 285 south to U.S. 50 for westbound drivers, or CO 91 to U.S. 24 to U.S. 50 westbound.
Forest Service Road 400 is also closed after drivers mistook it as an optional other route and got stuck or crashed.
“We understand how difficult the closure of I-70 is,” said Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Kevin Warner. “Unfortunately, this mostly unpaved road with narrow switchbacks is not an appropriate alternative. Drivers were ignoring the signs cautioning against using this road as an alternate route, forcing us to close the road.”
Independence Pass opened back up around 5:30 p.m. Friday – but to passenger vehicles only and with alternating traffic flows. CDOT says people should still expect long delays and try to find other routes if they have to travel in the area this weekend.
Cottonwood Pass Road remains closed, as do Coffee Pot Road, Transfer Trail and Clinetop Mesa roads. CDOT is advising people to avoid traveling this weekend, or to head north or south in order to drive east or west across Colorado, with so many road closures in place due to fires.
Stage 2 Fire Restrictions remain in place. The cause of the fire, which started Monday afternoon, remains under investigation.