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UPDATED: Skull Creek Fire east of Dinosaur up to 80 acres

The red pin shows the location provided by WildCAD.net for the rough location of the 25-acre Skull Creek Fire, north of U.S. Highway 40, between Dinosaur and Craig.
Courtesy photo

A fire being dubbed “Skull Creek” is active north of U.S Highway 40 about 70 miles west of Craig along the highway, or 60 miles west-southwest as the crow flies.

According to a Bureau of Land Management spokesman, at least 80 acres were burning around 6:45 p.m.. Earlier in the afternoon, it was just 25 acres, and the spokesman told the Craig Press it was all on BLM land. The fire is about 4.5 miles north of the Skull Creek Community, the spokesman said at the time, about 14 miles north of Rangely.

The spokesman said 20 structures are in danger. The vast majority of the fire, 76 acres, is burning on BLM land, he said. The remainder is private land.

The fire elicited an emergency cell phone alert to people in the Craig area, reading “SKULL CREEK FIRE EVACUATION.” According to the BLM spokesman, that order is for the area immediately surrounding the initiation point, with 1 mile in radius.

The BLM spokesman said multiple resources, including air, were fighting the fire Monday evening.

This story will be updated as more details become available.

Preserving the Last Frontier to meet Saturday

The Yampa Building at 775 Yampa Ave. houses the Craig Chamber of Commerce.
File photo

The Preserving the Last Frontier history group will meet Saturday, July 31, at 1:30 p.m. at the Senior Social Center, 775 Yampa Ave. in Craig.

The program will be given by Scott Chew on the pioneer Chew family of Moffat County, per a release from the group.

For more information, call 970-824-6761. All are welcome, according to the release.

Morgan Creek Fire sees first containment over weekend, now at 7%

Smoke rises from controlled burning operations Saturday morning. The burns are meant to bolster the area east of the fire line in the center of the picture that runs from the fires northeast perimeter to Seedhouse Road. (Courtesy)

The Morgan Creek Fire saw its first containment over the weekend on the west side of the fire’s perimeter. It is 7% contained as of Sunday.

Now at 5,666 acres, crews are once again utilizing controlled burns with the goal of bolstering a robust fire line that has been built from the northwest corner of the fire to near Seedhouse Road. The goal of this line is to prevent the fire from spreading to the west, where there are numerous homes.

“With an indirect strategy on fires, you use the three R’s: ridges, rivers and roads,” said Jay Godson, operations section chief for the Rocky Mountain Black team working the fire.

The indirect fire line ties into a ridge until it crosses the Elk River and connects with Seedhouse Road, which is also known as Routt County Road 64.

A fire line has been constructed from the northeast corner of the fire to Seedhouse Road is meant to prevent the fire from moving back west toward houses and other structures in the area. (Courtesy)

Firefighters have identified several blocks east of the fire line and are burning through them one at a time. The different blocks are defined by the type of fuels in each area, whether that be timber, aspens or grass.

Weather conditions are closely monitored during these burns, and firefighters are very deliberate with where the burns are carried out and when.

The blocks closest to the fire’s current perimeter are primarily made up of timber, and burning operations in those areas took place Saturday. Controlled burns Sunday started getting into the aspen, grass and brush-filled areas.

“The goal is to bring the fire’s edge up to that line, because what that is going to do is, if there is a wind shift or anything like that, it’s going to keep the fire from coming back towards those values at risk along (C.R.) 64,” said Brant Porter, public information officer for the fire.

These burns put a buffer between structures in the area and areas where the fire is slowly burning its way through the myriad of beetle kill and down timber.

“It is really just chunking through that timber and consuming all of those dead, dry fuels that are up there,” Porter said, adding that it would be unlikely the fire would be able to start up again in these burned areas.

Crews utilized controlled burns set off by aerial drops from a helicopter last week, as well, trying to slowly bring the northeast portion of the fire down along the South Fork of the Elk River. Porter said these burns removed bays of unburnt fuels that were surrounded by the fire’s perimeter.

“Now, it is a nice straight line that is coming down from that ridge into that valley bottom,” Porter said.

The Morgan Creek Fire now has 7% containment, with parts of the perimeter that are contained denoted with a black line on this map. All the containment comes on the west side and is expected to grow in the coming days.

Early last week, much of the fire’s growth came from the north center part of the fire, and it has now crossed over the South Fork of the Elk River in a few places. Porter said that isn’t concerning at this time.

Part of the reason the fire line is so broken on that north side is because of the variety of fuels in the area, with the timber burning but other fuels like aspen and grass not taking.

“It’s burning in the timber, but it’s not really carrying in any of the other fuels,” Porter said.

Lightning has been determined as the cause of the fire, according to Inciweb, a site that provides updates on fires across the country. There are 361 individuals working on the fire.

The fire has a current estimated containment day of Sept. 1, though this could vary wildly depending how conditions develop.

The first containment came Saturday on the west side of the fire where crews have been working hard for the past 14 days, and Porter said there are now fire lines all along much of the western side of the fire.

“The difference between having line in place and being able to call it contained is ultimately confidence that there is not any sort of heat or any sort of threat to that line,” Porter said.

These lines have hoses run up them so firefighters can use water in addition to hand tools to break apart smoldering logs and other fuels and let that heat dissipate. Porter said his line, which is in Division Z and Division X of the fire, has taken a lot of time and effort to build but will help increase the fire’s containment.

“We’re going to continue to add some containment to Z and X as the days progress,” Godson said. “They are starting to look really good.”

Morgan Creek Fire at a glance

Location: 15 miles north of Steamboat Springs in North Routt County near the Seedhouse and Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area

Size: 5,666 acres

Fuel: Heavy dead and down timber

Cause: Lightning

Date of ignition: 1 p.m. July 9

Firefighting personnel: 361

Containment: 7%

Source: Inciweb

Fires beyond county lines sending smoke, poor air quality to Craig

The high prairie northwest of Craig can be seen through a light haze covering the region, the result of fires in Routt County as well as states to the west.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

Air quality in Craig has stayed consistently in the Air Quality Index’s “moderate” category over the weekend, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow project.

Craig has narrowly missed smoke warnings and advisories seen in nearby Routt County, which (as of July 26) has seen a decline in air quality due to wildfires in the northern part of the county. On Monday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) issued an air quality health advisory for wildfire smoke coming from the Morgan Creek fire.

To be considered “moderate,” air quality in Craig must be acceptable for everyday activities, but there may be a risk for some people, particularly those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.

In a statement, the CDPHE said that although there are no large active fires in Moffat County, that does not mean Moffat County’s air will not be affected by fires in Routt County and fires in states west of Colorado.

“Although the transport of smoke into Colorado from out-of-state wildfires has decreased, hazy skies and generally Moderate levels of fine particulate matter are expected for northern parts of the state on Monday and Tuesday,” the statement said. “In these areas, unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion on Monday and Tuesday.”

Moffat County salsa queen Joanne Roberson won’t share her secret recipe, but she’ll share plenty else

Joanne Roberson poses for a portrait outside the Wyman Living History Museum, where she works. Roberson is the four-time-defending champion in the salsa category at the Moffat County Fair.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

Joanne Roberson knows the Moffat County Fair.

A former member of the Fair Board who’s worn a half-dozen or more other leadership hats within the fair’s organization, Roberson knows and loves the ins and outs of the annual event.

This year she’ll have to miss out on experiencing the fair fun in person, unfortunately. Roberson, who’s undergoing a surgical procedure too close to fair week to be present herself, will miss dearly her beloved event this year.

“It’s sad,” Roberson, 69, said. “It’s so fun to go down and see what everybody’s brought. But it’s OK. That’s the way it goes. My friends will take pictures and show me. It’s good.”

But frequenters of the fair need not fear — unless they are entrants in the homemade salsa category at the open class competition — though absent in body, Roberson’s wares will be present as ever this year.

“Someone will bring it all down for me,” Roberson said. “I won’t be able to go, but I’ll have some things together to enter. It’s fun. We need that. Pastimes, people, you’ve got to keep it going.”

Roberson is the four-years-running defending grand champion in the salsa competition, her roma tomato-based condiment the topper in its class since she started entering it five years ago.

“I almost don’t want to, because I know people know I’ll do it, but it’s fun,” Roberson said. “I want someone to compete with.”

Roberson brings the very same recipe to the fair every year. It’s a recipe that she keeps very much to herself — she jokes that her husband would divorce her if she gave it away — but of which she shares the results with great joy.

Friends and family from out of state have Roberson ship them cases of it, she said.

“Everyone says I need to sell the recipe, but I don’t know how to get a hold of them to do that,” Roberson said with a smile. “Everybody loves it.”

Roberson also makes dozens of jams and jellies, including a very popular raspberry jalapeno, she said, but the salsa is the big ticket.

“It’s a sickness,” she said with a chortle.

The secret recipe took many years to hone, she said, but it came in part out of not liking a particular store brand of the product.

“I didn’t like one in the store — and everybody says, ‘Doesn’t yours have sugar?’ but no, it’s roma tomatoes, they’re the meaty, sweet ones — but you taste something and think how can I improve it or what can I take away?” Roberson said. “That’s how I do it.”

For Roberson, the fair is a central moment of the year. It’s why she’s dedicated so much of her adult life to making it great.

“It brings everybody together, I think,” she said. “A lot of people you don’t see, or don’t know what they’re doing, they bring it to the fair, and, ‘Oh, that’s what you’re up to.’ And it’s good for our community to interact with people who you haven’t seen before. County fair is fun. Don’t take it too seriously. But it’s fun.”

MRH Hospice Volunteer Program seeking individuals who want to make a difference

 

“Hospice volunteers have the opportunity to impact an individual’s end-of-life journey in a positive and meaningful way."
Courtesy photo

With many rewarding volunteer opportunities to choose from, community members have several ways they can give back to others. Most people think of working in a food bank or tutoring others, but many don’t realize how fulfilling it can be caring for hospice patients.

Memorial Regional Health is currently seeking volunteers for its Hospice Volunteer Program, headed by Melissa Almon, a social worker for MRH Home Health and Hospice. Volunteers work within their scope of practice to assist patients and their families with their everyday needs. Under the supervision of an MRH social worker, volunteers provide support for hospice patients and their families in their homes or other care settings.

“Hospice volunteers have the opportunity to impact an individual’s end-of-life journey in a positive and meaningful way,” Almon said. “They have a long-lasting impact on patients and their families, helping them navigate a difficult time in their lives.”

Activities are based on the family’s requests and needs, which can include (but are not limited to) companionship, light housekeeping, reading to patients, pet sitting, running errands and other relevant duties. Anyone who is interested in community service is encouraged to reach out about the program.

“While something as small as running an errand for a family may feel insignificant, it can be incredibly beneficial to the family,” Almon said. “Offering the family brief respite by spending time with and offering companionship to their loved ones can be invaluable.”

How to volunteer

Volunteers need to complete required documentation and ensure safety is prioritized when assisting patients. They must adhere to MRH company policy and the hospice philosophy, and they are expected to maintain professionalism in the work environment.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the Hospice Volunteer Program at MRH, you must meet the following requirements:

  • 16 years of age or older
  • Valid driver’s license and transportation
  • Ability to pass a background check and drug screening
  • Can commit a minimum of one hour per week (some flexibility here, given that there are not always hospice patients to be cared for)
  • Ready to complete general training as well as Universal Precautions and Hand Hygiene training, CHOICE Values training, AIDET+P and Service Excellence training.
  • Are comfortable with death and have not experienced a significant loss in the past year
  • Are not under active treatment for a life-threatening illness or caring for someone with one

Why volunteer for hospice?

The pandemic temporarily brought the volunteer program to a halt, as most patients and their families chose to limit the number of people in their homes. Now that restrictions have been lifted, it’s important for the program to gain traction again, as volunteers are a valuable asset in the care of a patient.

“Volunteers are an important part of the team,” Almon said. “By losing this key team member, families and patients were not able to benefit from the support, care and companionship volunteers can offer.”

Volunteering for hospice is both challenging and rewarding. Through this type of volunteer work, you can make a positive impact at the end of an individual’s life when they need help the most. You can also create relationships with others in your community while learning more about the healthcare field.

“While death and dying are often conversations shied away from in daily conversation, they are a part of the life cycle,” Almon said. “Hospice volunteers are part of a multidisciplinary team that works together to ensure the end-of-life process is addressed in a way that maintains the dignity and worth of the dying individual while offering ongoing support to their loved ones.”

To volunteer or for more information, individuals should contact Almon at 970-826-8252 or Melissa.almon@memorialrh.org.

Hospice at MRH

The Memorial Regional Health Hospice team consists of nurses, physicians, chaplains and spiritual counselors, social workers, certified nurse aids, pharmacy staff, program directors and volunteers. It works as a multidisciplinary unit to provide consistent comfort and care to the patient and support to their family.

Every member of the team serves a unique role in end-of-life care. All team members are friendly and approachable and ensure volunteers feel supported in their volunteer roles. For more information about hospice services offered, call 970-824-6882 or learn more at memorialregionalhealth.com/healthcare-services/hospice.

 

Faith: Life doesn’t stop; neither does the Lord


Jesus takes a vacation in Mark 6:30-34. Or at least he tries to. His vacations go like my vacations sometimes do. Everything that can goes wrong does.

The disciples have just returned from their first mission. They are full of excitement and eager to tell Jesus all about it. You know the moment. You’ve been there too. You’ve gotten a good grade in school or a big promotion at work, or you’ve learned that you’re going to be a grandma or great grandpa. Whatever the good news is, you’re just bursting to share. Everyone has to know about it.

However, there is also a frenetic energy in you. You know you are excited, but there is so much to do. This new and exciting thing comes with so much more responsibility. You have to get this and this and this and this and this and this done before you can move on. Just watching you makes everyone around you tired. You’re tired too but you don’t realize it. You’re just so full of excitement that it hasn’t hit you yet.

This is where the disciples are when they return from their first mission. They are worn out but excited too. They can’t see it, but Jesus can. So, he says something so incredibly simple: “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.”

Then, people interrupt and expect him to do ministry.

“Many people saw them leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:33-34, CEB)”

Yep, it’s not exactly as planned.

Jesus, however, takes a big breath and responds to the needs around them. He divides up the lunch between the extra guests… a lot of extra guests. He heals several people. He walks on water out to the frightened, whiny disciples. He calms the storm. This week changes everything.

Jesus responds with love and patience. That’s something we don’t always do. Something we don’t always want to do.

It is a good reminder to us that God’s love is always overflowing, always present even when we don’t always think we deserve it. We are given grace when we are the least patient and least loving. We are encouraged when we are scared. We are healed when we are overwhelmed. Remember that even if it seems like the sign on heaven’s door says out to lunch, God is still answering your deepest needs.

UPDATE: I-70 in Glenwood Canyon reopens after safety closure

UPDATE 5:27 p.m. — Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon has reopened in both directions Saturday evening after a safety closure due to a flash flood warning. There were no reported mud/debris slides.

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No sooner had Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon reopened Saturday afternoon than it was closed again at 3:30 p.m. due to the flash flood warning.

I-70 was closed for about two hours in both directions between Rifle and Dotsero after the warning was issued a short time earlier by the National Weather Service.

The warning has now been lifted.

I-70 eastbound had just been reopened around 1 p.m. Saturday following a lengthy closure Thursday night and into Saturday. Westbound lanes had been reopened early Saturday morning.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

I-70 closed in Glenwood Canyon again due to flash flood warning

No sooner had Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon reopened Saturday afternoon than it was closed again at 3:30 p.m. due to the flash flood warning.

I-70 is closed in both directions between mile-markers 87 at west Rifle and 133 at Dotsero, due to a flash flood warning issued a short time earlier by the National Weather Service.

The warning is in effect until 4:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon for south-central Garfield and northeastern Mesa counties, but could extend to the area over the Grizzly Creek burn scar, according to the NWS alert.

“At 2:28 p.m., Doppler radar indicated thunderstorms producing heavy rain across the warned area,” the alert states. “Between 0.7 and 1 inch of rain has fallen. Additional rainfall amounts of 0.1 to 0.5 inches are possible in the warned area. Flash flooding is ongoing or expected to begin shortly.”

Motorists and residents should prepare for flash flooding of small creeks and streams, urban areas, highways, streets and underpasses as well as other poor drainage and low-lying areas, according to the alert.

I-70 eastbound had just been reopened around 1 p.m. Saturday following a lengthy closure Thursday night and into Saturday. Westbound lanes had been reopened early Saturday morning.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

UPDATE: I-70 reopens in both directions through Glenwood Canyon

A major debris slide partially blocks a section of the Colorado River near MM124 in Glenwood Canyon after a flash flood swept rocks and debris down the Devils Hole drainage on Thursday.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

UPDATE 1:12 p.m. Saturday, July 24: Interstate 70 is now open in both directions through Glenwood Canyon.

Original story:

The eastbound lanes remain closed due to potential structure damage underneath the eastbound lanes.

A structural assessment cannot be completed before crews can cut a channel for displaced Colorado River water to flow away from the interstate, CDOT’s Region 3 Director Mike Goolsby explained. Depending on the extent of damage, eastbound I-70 will remain closed for repairs to ensure it is safe for motorists.

“Last night, one of the debris flows that came out was in the Devil’s Hole drainage, which is basically south of the railroad tracks on the other side of the interstate,” Goolsby said. “This debris flow was quite large. It basically dammed off the river and it found the path of least resistance (next to the interstate surface) when it started to flow again.”

Burned logs float in a dammed portion of the Colorado River after a flash flood swept a major debris slide down the Devil's Hole drainage in Glenwood Canyon near MM124 bringing rocks, mud and debris into the river on Thursday.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Debris is blocking the Colorado River and is sidled up to the edge of the Interstate 70 deck in Glenwood Canyon and will need to be diverted away from I-70, which will require cutting through the debris field.

Goolsby said I-70 continues to be closed in both directions between Glenwood Springs exit 116 and Dotsero exit 133, with no estimated time of reopening due to expected heavy rainfall forecasts for Friday evening and Saturday.

While a midday alert from Garfield County warned of possible debris coming down the Colorado River, that danger has passed for now, unless additional rains bring even more significant debris down into the riverbed, Goolsby said.

“Based on what’s coming down right now, it’s coming in small pieces; it’s not going to come all at once,” he said.

Multiple debris flows occurred during Thursday’s heavy rainfall event. The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a flash flood watch through midnight Saturday with monsoonal rains likely throughout the western Colorado region throughout the week.

All that and the current state of debris flows mean the one question many people have — an estimated time for reopening — is just not available, Trulove said. CDOT crews, however, continue to work around the clock where it is safe and reasonable to get traffic flowing through the canyon once again.

“One of the things that CDOT’s been doing a fantastic job on is bringing in reinforcements,” she said. “We’ve got crews that have been out there with dump trucks and several loaders and working, you know, the scenario, around the clock.”

Beware navigation apps

While CDOT is actively working with Waze, Google Maps and others to keep traffic off alternate routes that are not suitable for heavy traffic, it is still possible that people will find themselves automatically routed on roads such as Cottonwood Pass, Trulove said.

“On Cottonwood Pass, we’re really only trying to put local traffic through there,” she said. “But people are using it like the interstate, and it’s a safety situation.

“We’ve already seen several rollover accidents occur on that roadway.”

Regional travel impacts

Colorado Department of Transportation’s proposed alternate route while Interstate 70 is closed through Glenwood Canyon. Courtesy of CDOT

It’s not just the I-70 corridor feeling the effects of Glenwood Canyon’s closure — communities along the northern detour route are seeing significantly more traffic. Goolsby said some of those roads are not meant for the level of use they’re currently experiencing but that CDOT would go in to do repairs where needed.

“We will have to go out and do some additional maintenance and to take care of some of these areas that are beat up pretty bad,” he said.

Peter Baumann can be reached at pbaumann@postindependent.com or 970-384-9114. Shannon Marvel can be reached at smarvel@postindependent.com or 605-350-8355.