Rising temperature, changing winds test Sugarloaf Fire
Stage 2 fire restrictions prohibit:
• Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire, charcoal grill, coal, wood burning stove or sheepherders stove, including in developed camping and picnic grounds. Devices using pressurized liquid or gas are exempted;
• Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, trailer, building or tent;
• Using an explosive requiring fuse or blasting caps, fireworks, rockets, exploding targets and tracers or incendiary ammunition;
• Operating a chainsaw without an approved spark arrestor, and without a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher and a round-point shovel with an overall length of at least 35 inches that is readily available for use;
• Welding, or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame except with a current permit, contract or letter of authorization.
• The use of fireworks, flares or other incendiary devices is always prohibited on federal lands.
Thanks to warmer weather and easterly winds, the Sugarloaf Fire saw an increase in activity on Tuesday compared to previous days, forcing fire crews to use a T1 helicopter to drop water and cool the area.
The fire is listed at 1,260 acres spread across the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, southwest of Fraser, which is down from 1,270 acres on Sunday, according to interagency information management website InciWeb. Fire officials estimate that it remains at 20 percent containment and still predict an Aug. 31 containment date.
“With the existing weather conditions, the fire has slowed its spread, but it continues to creep and smolder, back down slopes with some single tree torching,” stated fire officials. “With fire behavior today, we expect the fire to continue to spread in the upper reaches of the Darling Creek drainage.”
Though the fire remains on the east side of Darling Creek, officials continue to monitor the area and side drainages to the west. Officials said they expect increased fire behavior and fire growth if the Sugarloaf blaze crosses Darling Creek.
All necessary work for structure protection, including homes in the area as well as Henderson Mill and Mine infrastructure, has been completed according to federal reports. Fire crews have also laid out over 6,000 feet of hose, which will remain until the fire is no longer a threat.
The Sugarloaf Fire is being fought under a suppression strategy, according to federal reports. Terry Baker, deputy forest supervisor for the Arapaho National Forest, explained last week that the Forest Service is being cautious in their suppression efforts, taking into account the remote nature of the area as well as the hazard posed to firefighters by the steep rugged terrain of the area as well as the extensive landscape of trees impacted by beetle-kill pine.
“Fire personnel are actively suppressing this fire in areas where they can safely work,” Baker stated.
According to federal officials, the Sugarloaf Fire was ignited by a lightning strike in the area on June 28.
Because of fire activity in the region, officials have also placed all Bureau of Land Management lands in Jackson County under Stage 2, as well as Grand, Summit and Eagle counties, which have been restricted since June.
Fire officials with the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit are urging the public to continue to be cautious as conditions continue to dry in northwestern Colorado.
“Precautions people should take include avoiding parking in tall dry grass, or driving OHVs in areas where dry grass can be ignited by hot exhaust,” said David Boyd, public affairs specialist for BLM, in a press release. “It only takes one spark to start a wildfire – equipment should have working spark arresters and trailers should be inspected to ensure chains are not dragging.”
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Diane Howell, 77, only leaves her house right now for errands and essentials. As part of the age group considered most vulnerable to COVID-19, she’s felt isolated as she avoids most social interactions.