Campfires cause two new blazes in White River |

Campfires cause two new blazes in White River

Post Independent staff report
Aspen, CO, Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Human carelessness is being blamed for two new wildfires that erupted Tuesday in the White River National Forest – one in the Flat Tops Wilderness and one up the Fryingpan River east of Basalt.

The Lily Pad Fire consumed just two trees near Lily Pad Lake, about nine miles southeast of Thomasville, according to Josh Graham, assistant fire management officer for the Central Zone of the Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management Unit.

“Someone built a fire ring on top of thick duff, which ended up burning down about 2 feet through the needles. After the rock ring collapsed inward, the fire spread onto the spruce trees it was built under,” Graham said. “What were they thinking?”

The fire was fully contained Tuesday, said White River National Forest spokesman Bill Kight.

A larger fire, started when sparks escaped from a backcountry campfire, is burning west of Budge’s Resort on the South Fork of the White River in the Flat Tops Wilderness, about 18 miles due north of Glenwood Springs.

The 22-acre South Falls Fire was 70 percent contained by noon Wednesday. It was burning near a thick evergreen forest. With high winds, it easily could have resulted in a 200-acre fire, Kight said.

The two fires come on the heels of two other human-caused fires in the national forest backcountry. The Middle Elk Fire burned 257 acres on the Flat Tops near Hiner Springs, along Buford to New Castle Road, in late September, and the Red Cliff Fire, which erupted last week, came within a mile of the town.

The Middle Elk Fire area was closed to the public for weeks, but the Forest Service lifted the closure Tuesday.

A roadside spark north of Rifle on Oct. 3 caused a wildfire that burned 991 acres of public land east of Highway 13 and on the Grand Hogback.

Blanco District Ranger Ken Coffin urged hunters using the forest to be extra-careful with their fires.

“Make sure you build a fire in a safe place by clearing the whole area of all vegetation, even up to 2 feet outside the fire ring,” Coffin said.

“And hunters, please make sure your fire is dead out. This means all remaining ashes should be cold to the touch whenever you leave camp,” he added.

The consequences for those who start a wildfire are serious, said Scott Fitzwilliams, White River National Forest supervisor.

“People who abandon their campfires are subject to a $5,000 fine. And if it escapes and starts a wildfire, they can count on paying the full cost of suppression. In the case of the Middle Elk Fire, that figure is close to half a million dollars,” he said.

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