Grizzly Creek Fire forces closure of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon |

Grizzly Creek Fire forces closure of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon

Post Independent staff report
An airtanker drops fire retardant slurry on the ridge directly above No Name after the Grizzly Creek Fire broke out inside Glenwood Canyon just east of Glenwood Springs on Monday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon east of Glenwood Springs remains closed, as firefighters battle the Grizzly Creek Fire, which broke out along the freeway Monday.

The fire started about 1:30 p.m. Monday in the median between the eastbound lanes and the elevated westbound lanes at mile marker 120, near the Grizzly Creek Rest and Recreation area.

By early evening, about 60 firefighters and numerous aircraft had responded to the 1,300-acre wildfire, located about five miles east of Glenwood Springs.

Flames from the Grizzly Creek Fire lick over the westbound lanes of Interstate 70 on Monday.
GSFD Facebook photo

“The cause of the fire is under investigation,” incident PIO David Boyd with the White River National Forest said in a press release. “There are no immediate threats to structures and no evacuations are in place.

Fire operations had concluded by 8:30 p.m., and were to begin again Tuesday morning. The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit is lead on the incident, but multiple local and federal emergency response agencies, including crews from the Glenwood Springs Fire Department, remain involved.

Incident command has established a dedicated Facebook post where regular fire updates will be posted. An official interagency Inciweb page has also been established for the Grizzly Creek Fire.

I-70 remained closed in both directions through Glenwood Canyon overnight between mile markers 116 (Glenwood Springs) and 140 (Dotsero).

Access to the Flat Tops Wilderness from Coffee Pot Road is also closed, according to the incident command release.

“The safety closure (on I-70) is to allow CDOT specialists to assess two bridges located near where the Grizzly Creek Fire started, as well as increased rockfall hazard in Glenwood Canyon,” Colorado Department of Transportation officials said in a press release issued at 7:45 p.m. Monday.

Rockfall from the fire area has already been reported, and is likely due to burned vegetation no longer holding rocks in place, CDOT advised in the release.

“CDOT asks that motorists not use Cottonwood Pass as a detour, due to fire activity,” the release stated, noting that the high-country pass is not suitable for heavy traffic.

CDOT recommends that westbound travelers head from Denver take US 24 to US 285 to Poncha Springs, then turn west on US 50, which reaches I-70 in Grand Junction.

Eastbound travelers should take US 50 from Grand Junction to Poncha Springs, turn left onto US 285 to US 24, which reaches I-70 between Avon and Vail.

Motorists can also take a northern detour of CO 131 to US 40 to CO 139. CO 13 at Rifle is open at this time but not recommended due to construction.

Firefighters were using heavy air attack with four heavy air tankers, two single engine air tankers (SEAT) and a Type I and Type III helicopter.

The fire was burning mostly in the rugged Grizzly Creek drainage and up the steep canyon walls in that area between Grizzly and No Name creeks. Boyd said the fire is burning mostly on U.S. Forest Service land.

“That is super rugged country, so it’s not a place we can safely put firefighters on the ground, so we have been fighting it from the air,” he said.

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