‘It’s pretty scary’: Residents, fire officials deal with increased Silver Creek Fire activity
Linda Newman, her husband and their dog, Aspen, spent Friday morning sitting out in front of their Old Park home watching the Silver Creek Fire burn only a few miles away while fire crews dropped slurry on the blaze.
“It’s pretty scary,” Linda Newman said from her driveway on Friday afternoon. “My husband kept saying one of these days, there’s so much fuel back there, it’s going to happen. And of course you always think it never will, but it did.”
Only a couple hours later, fire officials issued an evacuation notice for the Old Park and Gore Lakes communities. It was the second time in two months that the Newmans, and their Old Park neighbors, were forced to evacuate because of the fire.
Despite living in the area for over 15 years, this is the first fire that the Newmans have experienced and it’s “horrible,” as she explained.
With its ability to spot almost a mile away, readily available fuels and strong winds, the Silver Creek Fire is a force to be reckoned with. After a period of relative inactivity, the fire grew over 4,000 acres in two days.
The fire shows little signs of slowing.
Fire officials have closed Forest Service Road 100 and evacuated Latigo Ranch, Yost Ranch, Old Park and Gore Lakes, while other neighborhoods northeast of the fire are on pre-evacuation status.
Most of the fire growth had occurred on the north and northeast sides, but hot spots have popped up on the south side, including on Latigo Ranch’s property on Wednesday. Shifting winds on Friday afternoon then caused the need to evacuate neighborhoods on the south.
Lt. Dan Mayer of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff’s office’s spokesperson, had been in an out-of-town training much of this week and was disheartened to find the fire had flared up once again. He glimpsed it for the first time Friday morning.
Mayer spent several hours Friday serving as police escort for two large road graders, driving north on Highway 40 to near the head of the fire, which will widen roads and allow for more fire resources to battle the blaze.
Upon navigating the machinery through property of a private ranch to get closer to the blaze, Mayer was called back to Old Park where fire activity had picked up and traffic on Forest Road 100 was being limited.
The hot and dry weather conditions prompted fire officials to put Stage 3 fire restrictions on the neighborhood. Ignition probability in the area is at 100 percent, according to Type 2 incident commander Eric Stahlin.
With so much depending on the weather conditions, particularly the direction of the winds, the Newmans had already prepared for probable evacuations.
This time they had a better idea what to pack.
“We’ve got the camper on our truck, we’ve got our boat out here, we’ve got boxes ready to pack up our files and some last minute things, we have clothes packed for a week,” Newman said with optimism. “The last time we took everything and we aren’t doing that this time, it would just be too stressful.”
Others to the north of the fire are preparing, as well.
Local rancher Rich Sherman said he doesn’t believe the fire will make it onto his property, but does have cattle to worry about.
“I don’t think it will ever come across (Franz Creek),” Sherman said. “We’ve grazed it enough and I don’t think it can get going hard enough to get to us.”
So far, Sherman hasn’t moved his herds and said the smoke doesn’t seem to be affecting them.
Though Sherman has remained positive, fire officials are preparing for the worst.
The Type 2 Rocky Mountain Blue Team, which had previously been assigned to the fire in mid-August when fire activity last picked up, will retake command Friday evening.
Gov. John Hickenlooper also signed an executive order to allow state financial resources for the fire after it crossed onto the Milk Creek State Trust Land on Thursday. Costs to battle the blaze are quickly reaching over $20 million.
Air resources are also playing a large part in fighting the flames. Air tankers, including a 737, Type 1 and 3 helicopters and a multi-mission aircraft have been assigned to the fire, dropping fire retardant and water.
Another community meeting to brief resident on fire activity will take place at 9 p.m. Friday at West Grand High School.
Newman commended all parties involved with the fire for their excellent communication with residents. She said that has helped a bit to ease concern.
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Grand Concerts is hosting its first live event in 17 months featuring the Boston Brass on Friday at the Headwaters Pavilion in Winter Park.