Sugarloaf Fire sees minimal change, officials say
Burning in a remote part of the Williams Fork drainage, the Sugarloaf Fire in Grand County has seen minimal change in the last couple days.
An Infrared flight to accurately determine the size of the fire was cancelled for the night of July 4 due to cloud cover, so there is no change in reporting size of the fire.
A helicopter able to carry approximately 700 gallons of water and effectively work at high elevations will continue to drop water on the northwest to southwest part of the fire to keep it in check, according to U.S. Forest Service officials who are overseeing the fire. This improves the chance of the fire not crossing the main Darling Creek drainage and to slow fire activity on the southwest side of the main fire toward the Henderson Mine and other important homes and infrastructure. Fifty-three personnel have been assigned to the Sugarloaf Fire, along with four engines and one type-3 “heavy” helicopter.
Crews on Thursday continue final stages of prep work around Henderson mine infrastructure, Ute Park and other structures. They will be scouting below the southwest side of the fire to assess feasibility of direct control options. The intent will be to further check fire progression toward the Henderson mine infrastructure and homes that would be threatened if the fire moved to the north and west, according to officials.
The forest service’s strategy for suppressing the Sugarloaf Fire prioritizes public and firefighter safety, according to Terry Baker, deputy forest supervisor for the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland, taking into account the risks of working in the beetle-kill landscape.
“The day the Sugarloaf Fire started was the same day the Golf Course and Summer fires started near Grand Lake, resulting in evacuations,” according to Baker. “Some fire resources were shifted from the Sugarloaf Fire to those fires because they posed a more imminent threat to life and property.”
If it becomes necessary, Baker said, fire engines and crews will be placed to protect structures, sprinkler systems will be installed and brush removed. This is referred to as “point protection” and it is expected to be very effective if it becomes necessary to deploy.
Particular areas of interest closed because of the fire include the Sugarloaf and South Fork Campgrounds, the Byers Peak Wilderness, Ptarmigan Pond, South Fork, Boardwalk, Ute Peak, Ute Pass, Kinney Creek, Byers Peak, Keyser Ridge, Lake Evelyn, St. Louis Lake, Williams Fork and Darling Creek trailheads; and numerous National Forest System roads and trails.
The fire is currently below 5 percent contained, with an estimated date of containment being Aug. 31, according to the forest service. The cause of the fire is currently cited as being from a natural occurrence, likely the result of a lighting strike.
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