Crews douse wildfire near Loveland Pass |

Crews douse wildfire near Loveland Pass

Summit Daily News Staff
Aspen, CO Colorado
Firefighters contain a small wildland fire above Keystone on Wednesday. The roped-off area is believed to be where the fire started. (Courtesy Josh Shutz)

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue put out a small fire burning east of Keystone Wednesday afternoon.

Lake Dillon Deputy Chief Jeff Berino was alerted to the smoke by Joe Foreman, snow ranger with the U.S. Forest Service, Joe Forman, who was performing work just off Highway 6 at the base of Porcupine Mountain.

At about 4p.m., Foreman noticed light smoke amidst the trees on the opposite, north side of Highway 6.

He called Berino to check if Lake Dillon Fire was conducting any training or was aware of a controlled burn in the forest just north of Loveland Pass, about a half-mile up the pass from Keystone. Noting there were no known ongoing activities in the area, Berino immediately deployed Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue wildland units to check the area.

“It is a good thing we have such close coordination,” Berino said, adding that “on this day, Forman’s instincts and actions kept a small problem from becoming a large one.”

Arriving units discovered smoke building from the tree line, around 150 feet north of the highway in dense forest.

After ascending a sharp incline in wildland gear to an area located at 9,650 feet in elevation, firefighters discovered a developing fire area of underbrush and grass spreading out over an area just shy of a quarter-acre.

Units from Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, Red, White and Blue Fire District, Copper Fire Department, the United States Forest Service, Summit County Sheriff’s Office worked efficiently and swiftly to keep the underbrush fire from spreading to the surrounding fuels, including significant amounts of fresh beetle kill.

“The smoke was dense with a good amount being produced,” said engineer Ben Perlmutter, describing how his unit flanked the west side to create a fireline in order to prevent the fire from spreading.

Firefighters said the toughest part about the fight was the initial climb at inclines reaching up to 60 percent grades to reach the fire location.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but investigators from Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, the United States Forest Service and the Sheriff’s Office have narrowed down the fire origin to a 10-foot by 10-foot area approximately 120 feet north of the highway. No firefighters or first responders were injured in the incident and the area was not occupied, although fire officials note that the area is frequented by squatters.

“With the onset of winter, it is easy sometimes to overlook that our local fire danger status remains at moderate,” said Brandon Williams, public information officer with Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, adding, “we aren’t out of the fire season yet.”