Old Park evacuated safely as Silver Creek Fire surpasses 4,000 acres | CraigDailyPress.com

Old Park evacuated safely as Silver Creek Fire surpasses 4,000 acres

McKenna Harford
Sky-Hi News

Smoke above the Old Park neighborhood in the late afternoon on Wednesday.

Despite growth in the Silver Creek Fire today, the flames have not reached any structures and the neighborhood of Old Town has safely been evacuated, according to a Wednesday night briefing from fire and county officials.

The community briefing took place at 9 p.m. at West Grand High School in an effort to provide updates to the evacuated residents of Old Park.

“As I am talking to you right now, nothing is burning and nobody’s house is on fire,” said Chief Ray Jennings of Grand County Emergency Management Services and Grand County Office of Emergency Management.

About 200 households were evacuated from Old Park as a precaution on Wednesday afternoon when the fire came close to the unincorporated community northwest of Kremmling. However, 35 residents chose not to evacuate and to stay in the area. Officials have closed Old Park and Highway 134 so no entrance is allowed.

At this time, officials are not sure when they will be able to allow evacuated residents back into their homes. Power to the area has not been shut off.

“I understand that evacuations are really tough and that people are out of their homes, but the important thing to remember is that with all the humans out of the area, it allows (fire crews) to focus on structures that are at hand,” said Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin.

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Russ Bacon, the forest supervisor for the Routt National Forest, said that the structures and private property remain the focus of the fire crews. There are about 500 structures in the area.

“Since day one, all the partners and the firefighters and the incident commanders have been working really hard to try to minimize the risk and threat to private land and structures, but sometimes mother nature just doesn’t cooperate,” Bacon said.

Currently, the fire is burning at about 4,100 acres, a large increase from the almost 3,400 reported earlier today. Hotter and drier conditions contributed to the increased fire activity and wind pushed the fire further south.

Kevin Thompson, fire management officer for the Routt National Forest, said in the days leading up to the evacuation 160 to 180 firefighters were focused on the southern edge of the fire, which borders Latigo Ranch and Old Park. Officials evacuated Latigo Ranch on Monday.

Fire crews have focused on building dozerlines between the fire and structures, as well as spraying retardant near structures.

“We brought in a shot crew alpine and a couple other ones to start working along the 100 Road,” Thompson said. “Right now we do have night operations. With that we have quite a few engines out here and we left a hotshot crew over by Latigo Ranch.”

Thompson said the closest house is about six-tenths of a mile from the edge of the fire.

A crew of almost 300 people are fighting the blaze with the help of helicopters, bulldozers and portatankers. The fire has also been upgraded to a Type 2 incident team, which means the fire has grown, not only in size, but complexity.

Lighter wind and higher humidity are forecast for Thursday, which may help crews contain the fire, although there is a chance of thunderstorms.

“I do have confidence in (the fire crews),” Thompson said. “If the weather changes, they are going to make those adjustments and they are still going to keep their eye on the prize, which is the homes and the values out there.

Jennings said that he feels the preparation in previous days helped officials evacuate the area safely by letting residents plan for evacuation, which helped ease some of their worries.

The Red Cross Center set up at West Grand Middle School has not had anyone check in for their services yet.

Officials will be sharing further updates on their social media pages, on Inciweb, an interagency information management website, as well as a message board in Kremmling at 10th and Eagle. They also have a hotline that can be reached at (970) 725-3852.