The Pack Creek fire was 100% contained on Friday July 2 and on July 5 the fire was downgraded from an incident of “Type 3” to the less complex classification of “Type 4”. Although crews have successfully built a secure fire containment line around the entire outer perimeter of the fire, there are still trees and other unburned fuels within this boundary, and they are likely to continue. to burn, officials said, potentially throughout the summer. Experts assess burnt areas to identify other possible hazards, such as erosion and flooding; So far, they have determined that only 2% of the ground in the fire area has been burned to a high severity.
The final fire area remains at 8,952 acres, the size it has been since June 22. The burnt area includes the drainage of Pack Creek at the south end and a winding strip up the mountain slopes to Geyser Pass at the northeast end, where it burned under Haystack Mountain to the north and Mount Mellenthin to the north. South. Firefighters continue to monitor the fire, check the perimeter of hot spots, deal with hazards such as snags, remove firefighting equipment like hoses and pumps, and begin remediation work, which may include covering trails or currently unused fire lines made by firefighters or equipment. Only 36 people are now assigned to the blaze, up from a peak of more than 500, and the remaining staff are now under the direction of Kathryn Sebes, a Type 4 Incident Commander with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
In a July 6 update from the Forest Service, officials said current fire activity is minimal, but smoke will likely be visible throughout the summer.
“The point fires are likely to cause isolated columns of smoke and continue to burn in areas closed to public access,” said a July 6 press release from the Forest Service. “These small fires have a low probability of spreading and will help remove light fuels from the forest undergrowth. “
All evacuation orders for private property in the vicinity of the fire have been lifted, including the Blue Lake and Dark Canyon areas. La Sal Loop Road has been open since June 25 and camping scattered to the west of this road is permitted. The Sal Pass, which provides access to Medicine Lake and the Tuk Trail on the south side of Mt. Tukuhnikivatz, is open at the campsite. The temporary flight restriction that was in place over the fire has also been lifted. Authorities are asking the public, other than landowners and those they invite, to refrain from visiting the Pack Creek subdivision.
“Please respect the privacy and privacy of residents of the area,” read the July 6 press release. “The residents of Pack Creek continue to recover from the impacts of the fire. “
The Geyser Pass Road remains closed from the Trans La Sal Trailhead to Geyser Pass, as does the Lake Oowah Road and Campground. Popular hiking and biking trails, including the upper portion of the Whole Enchilada, Moonlight Meadows, Gold Basin Trail, and Clark Lake trails, are also closed.
Forestry officials met with members of the Grand County Commission and representatives from San Juan County to discuss the preliminary findings of the Burnt Areas Emergency Response Team (BAER), a group of experts who assesses damage caused by forest fires. The group took soil samples and used satellite imagery to create a “soil burn severity map,” which they shared with the commissioners. Commissioner Sarah Stock said the report appeared to be good news.
“Aside from the loss of property in Pack Creek and people’s homes, it appears the fire did not have as bad a consequences as many feared. The soil report was really good, ”Stock said at the July 6 committee meeting.
Stock also attended a field trip to Huntington, Utah to visit rehabilitation projects in Huntington Canyon that are in place to stabilize areas damaged by two wildfires in recent years. She described a partnership between various individuals and organizations in Emery County that has helped secure funding and materials like riprap, which is used to prevent erosion. Stock said she looks forward to working with San Juan County on rehabilitation efforts in the La Sals area, which she noted will likely be less extensive than the projects she observed at Huntington Canyon. New Grand County Emergency Director Jenny Swenson will likely play a leading role in the county process.
Mack McDonald, chief administrator of San Juan County, called the Grand County commission meeting to discuss inter-county collaboration on rehabilitation efforts in the Pack Creek Fire area. He pointed out that San Juan County’s primary focus is on the damaged structures of Pack Creek: providing structural stability, providing security and removing debris.
“The watershed and everything above it is kind of secondary to us right now,” McDonald said. He also noted concerns about how changes in water flow would affect infrastructure in and around the Pack Creek area. According to early models determined by an engineering company working with San Juan County, flows in the creek beds could increase by up to 5-8% during rainfall events, a volume that could damage or submerge bridges. in the Pack Creek Subdivision and begin by undermining the road along the Pack Creek drainage.
The July 6 press release also mentioned a possible increase in water flows:
“Areas downstream of moderate and high severity of soil burns may experience increased rates of erosion, debris flow and surface runoff as a result of short duration and high intensity rainfall events,” he indicates.
The BAER team continues to survey the area of the Pack Creek fire to develop recommendations for emergency stabilization projects.