After The Grizzly Creek Wildfire Burns Through Glenwood Canyon, A Look At What Remains

August 23, 2020
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONGRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
A mountainside burnout intentionally set and managed above Bair Ranch on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. The burnout, helicopter water drops, a firebreak cut running down from the ridge above, and prevailing winds, combine to deprive the Grizzly Creek fire’s potential run down this valley to Bair Ranch.

Glenwood Canyon's dramatic, tall rocky cliffs, punctuated by tenacious stands of spruce, scrub oak and sage that lead down to the Colorado River, are familiar to Coloradans and visitors alike as a dramatic gateway to the Western Slope on Interstate 70. Today, the cliffs and mountainsides lay scorched in many places. A smokey pall hangs over the place. The sound of helicopters and water pumps drown out the roar of the river.

The Grizzly Creek Fire is burning through a lot of this usually gorgeous place, starting east of No Name and running out and up to the north and south. On Aug. 21, with the canyon floor deemed safe enough, Forest Service wildfire fighter and spokesman Wayne Patterson offered journalists a tour of what firefighters from all over the country came here to contend with. We saw a fraction of the roughly 30,000 acres that have burned.

GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
A firefighting helicopter dips its bucket in the Colorado River near the eastern end of Glenwood Canyon, to assist ground crews fighting a section of the Grizzly Creek Fire above Bair Ranch on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
A burned off mountainside above Bair Ranch near the eastern end of Glenwood Canyon on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. Some of the wildfire fighting crews working the Grizzly Creek Fire have been trying to prevent its spread down to the historic ranch, which also functions as a hunting and fishing lodge.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Pump engine operator Joe Klempel watches ground crews at work on a mountainside above Bair Ranch during the Grizzly Creek fire on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
A firefighting helicopter makes one of dozens of water drops, not on fire in this case, but on land where crews hope they can shut down the spread. The water makes it safer to burn a stretch of land to eliminate fuel for the oncoming fire. Crews hope this combined with fire breaks and a shift in prevailing winds on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020 will protect Bair Ranch from the Grizzly Creek Fire.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Firefighter Christian Cortes, radio in hand, watches the progress of ground crews fighting part of the Grizzly Creek Fire above Air Ranch on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Derek Sams, in the blue shirt, is a division group leader assigned to the Grizzly Creek Fire. He watches ground crews working across a valley above Bair Ranch with firefighter Steve Reed, on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. A few days previously, the fire came over the mountainside above them and burned down faster than a human can run before being stopped by hot shot crews on the ground with air support.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Grizzly Creek Fire left charred remains of Gamble oak beside Coffee Pot Road high above Glenwood Canyon, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Division Superintendent Steve Abbott, who’s responsible for all Grizzly Creek Fire strategy, tactics and personnel assigned to thousands of acres between Coffee Pot Road and the Colorado River and Glenwood Canyon. He's standing beside his pickup truck Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Lead medic Bonnie Gibbons stands outside a yurt at the Coffee Pot Strike Camp high above Glenwood Canyon on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. She’s seen no serious injuries so far among the 80-100 firefighters who bed down in this camp each night. About 800 firefighters are currently working the Grizzly Creek Fire.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Lead medic Bonnie Gibbons speaks to reporters at the Coffee Pot Strike Camp high above Glenwood Canyon on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.
GRIZZLY FREEK GLENWOOD CANYON WILDFIREHart Van Denburg/CPR News
On Coffee Pot Road, high above Glenwood Canyon to the north on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. While the Grizzly Creek Fire incinerated large swaths of the canyon and its environs, a combination of hard work by firefighters on the ground and in the air, and some help from Mother Nature, mean the fire's progress is slowing. It's burned 29,992 acres but gained no acreage between Friday and Saturday and is now 22 percent contained.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Grizzly Creek Fire managers have allowed utility crews back into Glenwood Canyon to repair powerlines that were destroyed as the fire tore through the area leaving large swaths of the scenic canyon charred. Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Grizzly Creek Fire managers have allowed utility crews back into Glenwood Canyon to repair powerlines that were destroyed as the fire tore through the area leaving large swaths of the scenic canyon charred. Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
A freight train moves through Glenwood Canyon on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. The rail line only recently reopened after being closed by the Grizzly Creek fire in the canyon.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
A helicopter delivers supplies and equipment to utility crews working on power lines damaged by the Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.
GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE GLENWOOD CANYONHart Van Denburg/CPR News
At the Hanging Lake trailhead, evidence that the Grizzly Creek Fire made its way all the way to the valley floor in Glenwood Canyon. Rockfall and burnt debris from the fire made travel dangerous and impossible on Interstate 70 and CDOT closed the major east-west artery but by Saturday, Aug. 22, crews had largely cleared the roadway. The interstate remains closed, however.