Thursday’s snowfall brought a welcome pause to two fires burning in the area. After a long stretch of dry, windy conditions, officials say the snow and low temperatures helped to slow the Middle Mamm and Granite Lake Fires.
The Middle Mamm fire, which is burning on just over 1000 acres about 10 miles south of Rifle, received about an inch of snow.
On Tuesday, the Garfield County Sheriff’s office issued a pre-evacuation order for about 10 households, but lifted the order as the snow fell on Thursday morning.
While the Middle Mamm could be fully extinguished by a heavy snowfall, Thursday’s precipitation was not nearly enough to put it to an end. And the return of warmer conditions over the weekend will likely keep it burning until a more substantial snowfall makes its way to the area.
“Looking at the forecast going out Saturday and Sunday, we're going to be back in the 70s,” said Brant Porter, a spokesman for Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Black. “There's potential for winds then as well. So we're still treating this as an active fire and not as a season-ending event. We're still continuing to manage the fire on all fronts.”
Team Black has been managing the fire since taking over from an ad hoc group of state and local authorities at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Porter says his team could stay busy if the dry, sunny days persist.
“Those kinds of conditions,” Porter said. “If those continue on into the fall, there's definitely potential for the fire to continue growing. But we have resources that are here and this little pause in weather is going to allow us to continue the great work that's been done up to this point.”
Meanwhile, in the White River National Forest, the Granite Lake Fire saw a similar slowdown due Thursday’s snow. The 713-acre fire will also likely continue until a season-ending event such as a heavy snowfall occurs, but the recent precipitation helped to curtail some of the burning.
“We're not directly suppressing the fire,” said Curtis Keetch, district ranger for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the United States Forest Service. “Because it is a wilderness fire, we're trying to minimize the impacts in the wilderness as much as possible with that in mind. And so the weather definitely helps this kind of moderate and maintain the fire behavior.”
Keetch said the cold and snow allowed them to free up some of the personnel and trucks being used to control the Granite Lake Fire.
“With the change in weather, we actually are dropping down in resources and making them available for other areas that are still pretty dry. But the nice thing is, the way the system works is if we need more resources, we can pull them in in a very quick time for the fire.”