SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — New pre-evacuations were issued for County Road 2020, east and uphill of County Rd. 2020, and north of County Rd. 2021 to include Daley Ranch due to the Ptarmigan Fire on Tuesday afternoon.
The Ptarmigan Fire grew to roughly 83 acres, threatening 617 structures valued at $411 million as of Tuesday morning.
Officials provided a detailed update on the status of the fire and personnel working to contain it. The size of the fire will be reassessed on Wednesday, but it has grown to the east and the north, and the wet weather has helped.
There is a two-hour window between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. that residents will be allowed to get back to their homes to gather belongings but they must get credentials first. Those credentials can be obtained at the Silverthorne Town Hall starting at 7 a.m.
Chris McStay lives just below the evacuation zone, and spent Tuesday morning packing up belongings in case the winds shifted.
“We spent some time thinking about that, and it felt pretty tense, honestly,” he says. “I’ve watched the fire come down the mountain a bit, and sort of get nearer and nearer to those homes.”
Crews say Tuesday’s rain was beneficial, but also stopped them from being able to use helicopters and airplanes.
Due to the inaccessible terrain, firefighters say they’ll need those aerial operations to ultimately contain the fire.
“If we keep getting moisture, that’s really going to help, but it took a really long time for these heavy fuels, this thick timber to get as dry as it is, so it’s going to take a long time for the moisture to have an impact on it,” says David Boyd, with the U.S. Forest Service.
More than a dozen agencies are now fighting the fire, with multiple engines now stationed at at-risk
“We have engine crews parked in the driveways,” says Steve Lipsher with Summit Fire and EMS. “They’ve strung hose line, and they’re prepared to stopping the fire from getting too close to the home.”
Lipsher says agencies from every neighboring county arrived this morning, helping fortify that defense.
“This fire’s burning in some pretty tenacious fuels, it’s going to take a long time to get it fully contained, and out,” he says.
Initial pre-evacuations were in effect for Fly Line Drive and Bald Eagle Road.
“We saw a lot of fire activity over the night which, with temperatures dropping, was a little bit surprising to see,” U.S. Forest Service Dillion District Ranger Adam Bianchi said. “Unprecedented fire activity and we think it grew another 40 acres overnight.”
“With the incoming storm and the winds changing direction and what we’ve seen this morning since the sun has come up and warmed up the fire and activity, we just want to be prudent and proactive and obviously precautionary,” Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said.
Residents who have been evacuated can pick up credentials at the Silverthorne Town Hall during business hours. Credentials will allow residents to return to their homes to pick up some items when first responders deem it safe.
“We’re going to look for windows for you folks to get back up into those two neighborhoods to get anything you might have left,” FitzSimons said. “Those are the only credentials that will allow you back up in the neighborhood so that we can track who we let in and, most importantly, that you get back safely.”
Evacuated resident Arthur Hardin hopes to get back sooner than later so he can feed his fish.
“I’m glad to hear they have a lot of resources coming in, looks like they are on top of it,” Hardin said. “I just hope the weather will do what it’s predicted.”
Crews hope rain over the next few days and additional personnel will make a big difference.
“We’re still getting our bearings a little, bit but the big goal today is hit the west flank and the south flank,” Bianchi said.
“It’s scary, it’s scary to watch, it’s scary to see so close to neighbors and friends,” Summit County resident B Casapulla said.
Casapulla picked up a close friend from the evacuation zone Monday night. Her friend is a widow who is in the early stages of dementia.
“She left with her dog and her dog food and her purse,” Casapulla said. “I wanted to try to get credentialed for her, it would be hard to get her back here and understanding what’s going on with this.”
A number of residents in the county are extending their homes to evacuated friends like Casapulla.
“That’s Summit County, that’s what we do for each other,” Casapulla.
There will be another community briefing at 6 p.m. at Silverthorne Town Hall.
As of Tuesday at 2:40 p.m., here’s what we know about the fire:
When did the fire start?
The fire was first reported on the White River National Forest property on Monday around 4:30 p.m.
How big is the fire?
The fire was estimated to be around 83 acres
How are firefighters battling the fire?
A heavy helicopter and two single-engine air tankers are helping in the fight, according to White River National Forest. More fire crews are expected to arrive at some point on Tuesday. Heavy mixed timber, including dense stands of dead-standing and downfall lodge pole pines are making it difficult for firefighters to fight the fire on the ground.
Mandatory evacuations are in place for Hamilton Creek above Silverthorne and a pre-evacuation order is in place for Lower Hamilton Creek and Angler Mountain.
The American Red Cross emergency shelter opened at Summit Middle School located at 158 School Road in Frisco. Community members may call 970-668-9700 for the latest information, which also will be available on social media and websites for Summit County, Summit Fire & EMS, the Town of Silverthorne and the U.S. Forest Service.
Are any homes threatened?
Currently, no homes are being threatened by the fire.
A cold front will arrive on Tuesday, bringing cooler temperatures and lower humidity. This will allow more favorable firefighting conditions.