Aspen prepares for Fourth of July and wildfire potential

An Aspen fire truck passes by during a previous Fourth of July parade.
Jeremy Walalce/The Aspen Times file photo

On Wednesday, in anticipation of Fourth of July celebrations, the City of Aspen reaffirmed its commitment to their Street Smart campaign — a concerted cross-departmental effort to ensure public safety and promote sustainable practices. 

This initiative is a partnership among the city’s engineering department, Aspen Police, and the city’s parks department, aiming to heighten pedestrian and bicycle safety.   

AVSC’s annual Fourth of July barbecue remains a summer staple in Aspen.
Photo courtesy of AVSC

Police Chief Kim Ferber emphasized the significance of the campaign during this period.

“As we approach our largest event of the year, the Street Smart campaign becomes even more critical. We are enhancing road safety, improving city-wide connectivity, and educating the public to promote predictable behaviors on our roads, bike lanes, and trails,” she said.

The City of Aspen is also urging residents and visitors to utilize public transportation or consider biking to Fourth of July events. This approach not only enhances personal safety, but also helps reduce traffic congestion and contributes to Aspen’s ongoing sustainability efforts.  

“I want to emphasize its significance: It isn’t merely a campaign — it’s a reflection of our communal values,” said William Porter, the city of Aspen’s brand-new communications director who started earlier this month.

He added, “We’re all stewards of Aspen’s safety, whether as pedestrians, cyclists, or drivers. Through clear, pro-active communication, we aim to foster a culture of respect on our streets and trails. Our shared responsibility today will shape a safer, more inclusive Aspen tomorrow.” 

The City of Aspen extends an invitation to all its residents and visitors to join the Street Smart campaign at 

Wildfire season arrived.

A plane drops fire retardant in Basalt on July 4 to slow the spread of the Lake Christine Fire. An online mapping tool by the Colorado State Forest Service assesses fire risks for areas.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Six days after a wildfire broke out near Parachute, the community of Aspen is facing what could become a very long and worrisome fire season.

Luckily, no structures have been threatened or lost, and no injuries reported thus far in the Garfield County blaze.

“Very little, if any forest land has burned at all,” said David Boyd, public affairs officer for the White River National Forest. “We’re still pretty wet, muddy, and even snowy in places on the forest. The fire burned to about 9,000 feet and not higher. We expect more activity at the lower elevations on BLM and private land.”

Upvalley, though, the community is preparing.

“Aspen Valley Hospital (AVH) regularly evaluates hazards and risks to AVH, our patients, and the community in an ongoing effort to be prepared for managing emergencies. Wildfires have been identified as one of our greatest threats,” said Dave Ressler, CEO of AVH. “By learning from the wildfire and evacuation experiences of other hospitals in Colorado and California over the past several years, and in cooperation with our public safety partners and neighboring hospitals such as Valley View Hospital, AVH has developed plans for the potential evacuation of patients in the event that a wildfire threatens our facilities in Aspen, Snowmass and the midvalley.” 

He noted that the best plans, however, are prevention and mitigation.

The Aspen Fire Department trains the vast majority of their staff on how to combat wildfires and have several apparatuses dedicated to fighting wildfires. 

“We also have AI cameras strategically placed at areas of good vantage points to alert us of any smoke. Most of these cameras can even see the Spring Creek Fire, even though it’s 50 miles away,” said Jacob Andersen, deputy chief of operations for the Aspen Fire Department.

He explained that they have incident command scenarios where they build out a wildfire preplan and execute different scenarios for how to attack a wildfire.

Fireworks highlighted the Winterskol festivities on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, in downtown Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

There are no fireworks allowed in Aspen for the July 4th celebration, which is a long-term plan of the city’s agenda; instead, there is an evening laser show. Aspen Fire Department was also working throughout the week to clear downed trees from beetle kill around the city and surrounding area. 

“For us, while we have had a wet winter and spring with decent snowpack, fire season is certainly here,” said Andersen. “Pay close attention to your home ignition zone, and have an evacuation plan in place, a ‘go’ bag ready, and a meeting place established.”

He recommends visiting for resources and up-to-date information.

“People should sign up for Pitkin County alerts and for those who do not read English can use the app ReachWell that can translate messages into multiple languages,” he added.

For visitors, it’s also helpful to sign up for county alerts while visiting Aspen. 

“If you’re staying in a vacation rental, make sure the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are functional,” said Andersen. 


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