Lake Christine fire forces Aspen Music Fest president Alan Fletcher from home | AspenTimes.com

Lake Christine fire forces Aspen Music Fest president Alan Fletcher from home

The sight of Basalt Mountain ablaze Wednesday night, viewed from his Missouri Heights home, Alan Fletcher said, "was like Armageddon,"

Hours later, Fletcher, the president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School, was among the 2,000 local residents evacuated from their homes as the Lake Christine Fire charred the mid-valley.

"Everybody has the same word: it's just surreal," Fletcher said Friday afternoon. "To be walking around your house and thinking, 'We may never see this again,' it's just crazy."

The composer and arts administrator was upvalley in Aspen on Wednesday, tracking news of the fire while attending Fourth of July celebrations following the Music Festival's annual free holiday concert in the Benedict Music Tent.

With word of the wiildfire's rapid spread and rumors that Highway 82 might close, he and his husband Ron Schiller headed back to their home in Stirling Ranch on the western side of Missouri Heights around 7 p.m. to tend to their two dogs.

They began packing to leave around midnight, after nervously watching the fire spread and following mandatory evacuations of the El Jebel Mobile Home Park and adjacent areas.

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"We walked around the house, using the phrase, 'That is sold in stores,'" Fletcher recalled. So anything replaceable — clothes and books and such — they left behind with Fletcher's piano. Artwork and heirlooms went into the car. Fletcher's collection of autographed composer manuscripts, he noted, are always organized in boxes and ready to be taken in the event of an emergency.

The evacuation order came a few hours later and, shortly after, at 3 a.m. a fire official knocked on their door and said they had to go immediately.

"At that point it had jumped the ridge and it was burning at the top of Upper Cattle Creek Road and the wind was coming toward us," Fletcher recalled.

Fletcher, Schiller and the dogs drove to a friend's house on McLain Flats Road, arriving around 4 a.m.

After fleeing home and having a sleepless night, and not knowing the status of his home, Fletcher went to the Aspen Music School campus for a full day of duties, overseeing the summer class of more than 600 students, a concert by the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra at the Benedict Music Tent and a recital by the JCT Trio at Harris Hall, along with planning for the possibility of an extended power outage at Music Fest facilities.

"By (Thursday) night, I was ready to sleep," he said.

After the evacuation order was lifted Friday, Schiller made a visit to their house, though Fletcher said they plan to stay with friends upvalley until the fire is contained.

The Music Festival hasn't canceled any events, concerts or classes due to the fire. Three days of canceled flights into Aspen have posed the largest organizational challenge, as the festival has at least two guest artists and soloists coming into town and leaving on a daily basis. The festival has been running cars to and from the airport in Denver to shuttle musicians.

For solace in times of high stress like these past days, Fletcher said, he turns to Mozart's music.

"I think Mozart is so serene and centered at all times, so that is exactly what I need to listen to," he said.

Lucky for him, a Mozart symphony and violin concerto were on Friday evening's Aspen Chamber Symphony program.

atravers@aspentimes.com

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