Local assets dispatched to help battle Beaver Creek fire
A thick smoky haze moved into Grand County Monday night, spilling over Willow Creek Pass and the Never Summer Range and slowly descending on the local communities. The smoke is coming from the Beaver Creek fire currently burning in North Park and while Grand County is not immediately endangered by the conflagration assets from two local fire departments are currently working to battle the blaze.
A Facebook posting from the Grand County Office of Emergency Management (GCOEM) confirmed local residents can rest easy at the moment. “Surrounding Colorado fires have increased smoke in the area but rest assured there are no fires in Grand County,” states the GCOEM Facebook page.
According to the federal government’s Incident Information System web site inciweb.nwcg.gov there are currently five wildfires burning in Colorado ranging from the very small Brushy Fire deep in National Forest land outside Delta to the massive Beaver Creek Fire north of Walden.
The Beaver Creek fire was sparked on Sunday, June 19. Authorities estimate the blaze began around noon and the cause of the conflagration is still being investigated. After initial reports of a fire roughly 7,000 acres in size a more accurate estimate of the burn area was recalculated closer to 5,000 acres. Updates late Monday evening put the fire at around 6,200 acres.
Tuesday morning, shortly after 11 a.m., InciWeb released updates stating the fire has grown to 9,114 acres. The web site states, “Consecutive days of low humidity and north by northwest winds greatly increased fire growth in the Beaver Creek fire yesterday afternoon and through the night. Group torching and crowning continued into the early morning hours.”
The Beaver Creek fire continues to expand south and west. The north edge of the fire did not grow significantly Monday.
The Grand Lake Fire Protection District and the Grand Fire Protection District, based in Granby, have both sent assets to help the ongoing firefighting efforts. Grand Lake Fire sent one of their Type 3 Engines along with one of their senior volunteers, Paul Mintier, and one of the department’s career firefighters, Lt. Blake Mertz. Assisting Engine Boss Mintier and Lt. Mertz on the Type 3 Engine are firefighters Joe Starika and Ben Boucher from the Grand Fire Protection District.
The Grand Lake Fire engine and the combined crew are currently working on the northwest corner of the fire conducting hotspot mop-ups and structure preparation and protection. Because the Beaver Creek Fire is burning in forested areas thick with beetle kill pine the work of firefighters is made additionally dangerous because of the hazard posed by falling trees.
“We consider this a tremendous experience opportunity for the crew,” said Chief Long. “We have the exact same fuel resource in our county. It is a very experienced crew but it is always good to see how fires would burn in our backyard.”
The Grand Fire Protection District is also providing assistance in the form of a 2,200-gallon water tender truck and crewmembers to operate the tender. “Our tender is assigned to a structure protection division,” said Grand Fire Assistant Chief Brad White. “They have a number of fire engines that are in charge of keeping houses from burning. Our tender truck is going around supplying water to the structure protection group.” White described the Beaver Creek fire as, “a big complex incident.”
As of late Monday afternoon Grand Fire had three staff members working from the department’s tender truck: Mike Emery, Phil Flegner and Ron Cousineau. Emery, Flegner and Cousineau have been on site since Tuesday June 21.
Unlike the Grand Lake Fire engine, which has had the same four firefighters working from the engine since arriving on scene, the Grand Fire water tender has seen a rotating cast of Grand Fire staffers including Kyle Mussato, Meagan MacAleese and Doug Colson. White stated volunteers from Grand Lake and the Hot Sulphur/Parshall Fire Protection District have offered to take rotations on the water tender later this week.
White said local fire officials remain cautious this summer regarding the potential for wildfires in Grand County but the Beaver Creek fire is not, in and of itself, creating additional concern about wildfire outbreaks in the area. “Our fuel moisture content is about what we would expect,” White said. “We are not going through an abnormally dry period. We are watching all factors right now but everything is pretty normal.”
The four other wildfires burning in Colorado are located south of I-70. Three of the four fires are located west of Delta, including the Pitch Fire, currently at about 400 acres, and the Kelso Fire, currently at 900 acres. The other wildfire in Colorado, the Rosebud Fire, is relatively small at only 25 acres and is burning in Pitkin County between Gunnison and Monarch Pass.
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