Citation issued in Fort Frog fire on Buttermilk

Staff report
What's left of the Fort Frog compound can be seen smoldering May 22 after a fire destroyed it. An Aspen Skiing Co., employee was charged with arson Wednesday in connection with the blaze.
Sandy Schiff/Aspen Volunteer Fire Department |

The U.S. Forest Service has issued a citation to the people it believes are responsible for a fire Sunday on Buttermilk Mountain that destroyed the Fort Frog compound.

Aspen Fire Protection District Chief Rick Balentine issued a statement Friday that said the Forest Service issued the citation Monday, the day after the fire.

“It was determined that a group of individuals had spent the night at or near the compound on Saturday evening,” the statement said. “In addition to the structures, Aspen Fire’s Volunteer Firefighters also had to cut down several trees surrounding the blaze that had also caught on fire due to their close proximity to the blaze.”

When asked whether the cause of the fire could be determined, both Balentine and Forest Service law enforcement officer Chris Mandrick wouldn’t say whether the cause is known, but the Fire Department’s statement did include a warning to campers to make sure campfires and smoking materials are extinguished before leaving a campsite.

The agencies aren’t releasing the names of the people involved at this time and wouldn’t comment on the number of people involved.

“The blaze is a stark reminder of the dangers that fire can, and does, cause in the Wildland Urban Interface, even when conditions appear to be damp, and as summer quickly approaches, your friends at Aspen fire would like to urge all those venturing into the forest to please be certain that all campfires and smoking materials are completely extinguished before leaving them unattended.”

A call reporting the fire came in just after 6 p.m. Sunday. The compound was a popular children’s center on the mountain, featuring a wooden, frontier-style fort with lookout towers, flags, old wagons, a jail, a saloon and a Native American tepee village, according to the Sanctuaries in the Snow blog.

“Fort Frog was an important part of the Buttermilk experience for many years and for thousands of kids. We are sad to see it gone and will explore our options for rebuilding in the future,” Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said earlier this week via email.

Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy George Kremer said about 1 acre of forest burned in the fire but that it didn’t spread thanks to melting snow on nearby ski runs.

The structures at the compound burned to the ground. Balentine said the fire “devastated the cabin.”


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