Area fire chiefs predict long, hot, busy summer |

Area fire chiefs predict long, hot, busy summer

Greg Schreier

Fire conditions in Aspen are extremely dry right now, and the forecasts don’t show any sign of that changing.Area fire departments are bracing for what is already becoming a high-danger fire season. Small fires have been cropping up, including one on Wednesday near the Aspen sanitation district facility at the base of Mill Street. Larger fires have also been fought in Missouri Heights and on Jolley Mesa near New Castle.The increasing number of fires and dangerous conditions also led Colorado Gov. Bill Owens to implement a statewide fire ban, meaning no fires or fireworks on state lands.Aspen Fire Chief Darryl Grob said this year is shaping up to be more severe than average.”At this time of year, we’re always worried,” Grob said. “It’s certainly going to be a serious situation if your indicator is dryness.” He also said that the fires so far have spread quickly because of dry conditions.Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson said there haven’t been more fires than usual this year, but the conditions could mean disaster if people aren’t careful.”The difference is with the conditions, we’ve got the possibility of having a large, devastating fire,” he said. Conditions are the worst they’ve been since a number of giant fires devastated much of the state 2002, he added, and that could happen again if people aren’t proactive about preventing fires.Grob studies weekly and monthly forecasts every day, and sees no signs that Aspen will get rain relief any time soon. Thompson said conditions were similarly dry in Basalt.Area fire departments work together and “have a very aggressive policy in terms of response to wildfire conditions,” Grob said. Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt and Carbondale typically send full crews to all calls to ensure any fires are contained.Grob encouraged people to report any fire or smoke they might see to 911. There are no burning permits, and the statewide ban is in effect indefinitely. “There’s really little reason to see a smoke column,” Grob said.He also said people need to be proactive and aware, especially because about 80 percent of wildfires are human-caused.”Bottom line: It’s usually inattention on the part of the individual that could lead to a wildfire,” Grob said.

Firefighters and equipment from the Carbondale and Basalt fire departments are helping battle the Mato Vega blaze in southern Colorado.Carbondale firefighter Terry McShane is serving as a division supervisor. He is directing firefighting efforts in one area, according to Carl Smith, deputy fire chief at the Carbondale fire department.In addition, Carbondale has also sent one fire truck along with three men: crew boss Roger Ball and firefighters Aaron Catrell and Richard Cornelius.The Basalt fire department sent one truck with a crew of three. Firefighters Greg Bailey and Bill McEnteer joined Snowmass Village firefighter Bill Martindale, Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson said. He said they are on the fire line on one flank of the blaze.Steve Howard, also from Basalt, is on the medical staff for firefighters on the Mato Vega fire. That wild land fire, 12 miles northeast of Fort Garland, is the largest in the state. It had reached 12,000 acres by early Thursday and threatened 280 homes. It was 30 percent contained.Thompson said nearly 350 people from federal crews and departments throughout Colorado are fighting the fire.Greg Schreier’s e-mail address is

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