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Rafters On Colorado River Watched Grizzly Creek Fire As It Blew Up Along Interstate 70

(CBS4) - A whitewater rafting company in western Colorado started what it thought would be an ordinary day of operations on Monday, but the Grizzly Creek Fire submerged those plans. The guides launched their boats into the Colorado River about 15 minutes before the wildfire started in Glenwood Canyon.

"Definitely the craziest day I've had on the river," John Brockmeier, a guide with Whitewater Rafting, told CBS4's Jamie Leary.

"I was actually going through the river and then, all of a sudden, the color changed. The color of the river changed. I kinda started looking around, like 'What just happened?'" Brockmeier said. "A lot of smoke had drifted in over the sun causing just everything to go to kind of a yellow-reddish hue over the river. That was kind of the first indication that things were crazy."

"The next one was that the level of the river dropped substantially," he said. "There was a power plant just above the Shoshone section that we run, they have pretty broad control over how high the river can go and must have had to do an emergency shut off or something."

When the guide's boat rounded a corner, he said he saw flames on both sides of the river and he guessed some of them were as tall as 80 feet.

Grizzly Creek Fire (John Brockmeier for Whitewater Rafting LLC)
(credit: John Brockmeier, Whitewater Rafting)

"As we went right by the tallest flames you could kind of feel the heat on the side of your face," he said. "It was already a hot day and it definitely feeling warm as we were going through."

The guides in the company all have gone through swift-water rescue training and it teaches them to make decisions under pressure. The owner told CBS4 he's extremely proud of the decisions the guides made when they had to alter their course due to the fire. No one was hurt.

120 fire grizzly creek fire
(credit: CDOT)

The rafting company's operations are now shut down due to the fire.

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