UPDATE: Evacuees In Silverthorne Return Home, Battle Against Ptarmigan Fire Greatly Aided By Weather Conditions

By Kelly Werthmann and Alan Gionet

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. (CBS4) – Hundreds of people remain evacuated from their homes on Tuesday following a wildfire that started near Silverthorne on Monday. As of Tuesday afternoon, 183 are under the mandatory Summit County evacuation due to the Ptarmigan Fire.

(credit: CBS)

A new evacuation order was issued just before 11 a.m. for Upper Angler Mountain, does not include Fly Line Drive, due to wildfire activity. Fly Line Drive and Bald Eagle Road, west of the bridge, are under pre-evacuation status.

A pre-evacuation notice was issued at around 4 p.m. for County Rd. 2020, east and uphill of County Rd. 2020, and north of County Rd. 2021 to include Daley Ranch.

Those evacuated from Hamilton Creek and Upper Angler Mountain areas can get credentialed at Silverthorne Town Hall which will allow them to access their homes on Wednesday between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.

“It’s easier to move people out of these neighborhoods like we did last night while things are like this rather than in a panic,” said Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons.

Chuck Lloyd and his wife have been renting an Airbnb while they work on their home along the slopes of the mountain.

“My wife went up to kind of get our things together so we might be down here tonight.”

(credit: CBS)

Near the Silver Summit Ranch, Stephanie Staff didn’t mind being put on pre-evacuation notice.

“The winds swirl around here so much that you can never be sure which way the wind’s going to blow,” she said. “I have my car loaded up, and you know there’s a few things that you know, I took. The important documents, photographs, things that you can’t really replace.”

Dan Wall and his wife were out to dinner when the fire started about a mile from his house.

“We got the notice on our phone, we went back and they wouldn’t let us up. So this is all we have, what we have on our bodies,” said Wall.

 

Ptarmigan Fire (credit: USFS)

The U.S. Forest Service says the fire is between 80-100 acres after “unprecedented growth” of 40 acres overnight. Officials say it is growing north and east.

There’s still no containment. The fire had grown rapidly in shifting winds overnight Monday.

“Last night we could hear a lot of the trees coming down,” said Adam Bianchi, a spokesman for the Dillon Ranger District.

It is burning in a heavy mixed forest of aspen, dead standing and downed lodgepole pine and spruce.

“We also need to look at the safety of the firefighters that we’re putting on the ground and to send them up into that beetle kill timber is very dangerous,” said fire incident commander Eric White.

Moist and colder weather started to move in Tuesday afternoon. It was a help for the fire in the Ptarmigan Wilderness, which is located to the northeast of Silverthorne.

“We’re looking at additional precipitation the next couple days, so looking forward to the weather helping us fight this,” said Bianchi.

Firefighters are focusing on using aerial resources to keep the fire from moving downslope closer to structures, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

“We still don’t know with the incoming storms as these volleys of storms come through Summit County in the next few days, what that’s going to do,” said sheriff Jaime FitzSimons.

There are several agencies fighting the fire, including the U.S. Forest Service, Summit Fire & EMS, Clear Creek Fire, Eagle River Fire, East Grand Fire, Grand Fire, Grand Lake Fire, Greater Eagle Fire, Vail Fire and Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue, under the Mountain Area Mutual Aid agreement.

(credit: CBS)

As air operations resume Tuesday, fire managers remind the public that the use of drones or unmanned aircraft is prohibited and all firefighting aircraft will stop flying if a drone is spotted, which impends the firefighting effort. Law enforcement is investigating a drone incursion that occurred on Monday night over the fire.

“We need those air assets. We need to be able to fly. They can only fly during hours of daylight, and I do have federal law enforcement partners I’m very near and dear to, who will find these people flying these drones and they will go after them. So I’m just telling you keep the drones out of the air,” said FitzSimons.

A shelter for those residents — from the Hamilton Creek subdivision — was set up at Summit Middle School in Frisco. South 40 is on pre-evacuation status.

There will be a public briefing at the Silverthorne Town Hall, 601 Center Circle, Silverthorne, CO 80498, at 11 a.m. and again at 6 p.m. The meeting will be livestreamed on Facebook Live on the Summit County Government’s Facebook page.

The most current information is available: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7857/, the White River National Forest Facebook page @WhiteRiverNF, or call the Ptarmigan Fire Hotline at 970- 668-9700.

While the cause is under investigation, Bianchi told CBS4 the investigation will not start until they can get into the area – after it’s safe. The fire appears to have started near the Ptarmigan Trail. There was no lightning reported in the area at the time.