Crews knock down wildfire in Basalt; cause likely downed power line

Basalt resident Bob Ward was hiking down the Arbaney-Kittle Trail Thursday as smoke started rising from a wildfire on the valley floor.
Bob Ward / Courtesy photo

Quick action by construction workers who were soon reinforced by Basalt firefighters prevented the spread of a wildfire on the hillside north of Holland Hills on Thursday afternoon, officials said.

The fire broke out at about 2:15 p.m. near the Arbaney-Kittle trailhead about 1 mile east of Basalt. Crews from Gould Construction and Flame-Out Fire Protection were in the area and attacked the fire with extinguishers and water trucks, according to Basalt Deputy Fire Chief Pete Bradshaw.

“Fire Chief Scott Thompson’s quote was, ‘The heroes of this fire were Flame-Out and Gould,’” Bradshaw said.

Firefighters joined the construction workers and found a quarter-acre fire on a steep hillside. It was burning in grasses, pinion and juniper trees and mountain brush and located on the hillside between Alpine Meadows Ranch & Kennels and the popular trailhead.
“At no time were there any structures in danger,” Bradshaw said.

However, there was a high risk of the fire running up the hillside. The Roaring Fork Valley remains in drought conditions and fire restrictions are in place.

The fire was contained by 3 p.m. A civilian who helped with the firefighting was treated for minor injuries, Bradshaw said. Information wasn’t immediately available on whether that person was with one of the construction firms.

“The fire is believed to have started under the power line,” the fire department said in a news release. “Witnesses reported hearing an explosion at the time of the power outage and shortly before the fire was reported. It is believed that the fire was started due to this electrical issue, however, specifics regarding the electrical lines were not available at time of the release.”

Ollie Bode, owner of Alpine Meadows Ranch & Kennels, said the incident was unsettling.
“I still think the whole valley is under fire stress from Christine,” she said, referring to the wildfire that started July 3 and charred 12,588 acres and threatened Basalt and El Jebel.

Bode said she heard pops from an electrical source. Her roommate investigated and yelled at her to call 911. Firefighters initially said they would have to evacuate because federal air resources were going to be called in to snuff the fire, but the air strike was called off.

Bode said they had the dogs boarded at the kennel loaded up and ready to evacuate, but they were told to stand down.

Basalt resident Bob Ward was hiking the Arbaney-Kittle Trail and was descending when he saw the smoke.

“My first thought was, ‘Not again.’ I was thinking about the Lake Christine Fire and something’s blowing up,” Ward said.

But because it wasn’t thick black smoke billowing up he thought maybe someone was burning brush or that his truck was on fire. The closer he got to the valley floor he realized the fire was upvalley from the trailhead.

The trail is popular with hikers throughout the day, but Ward said only a handful of people were on it at the time of the fire.

The fire department said crews will be on the scene until dusk working the interior of the fire and ensuring it is contained.

The Basalt and Snowmass-Wildcat fire departments responded with four engines, one tender, an ambulance and a command vehicle. There were 12 firefighters on scene at one point. The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Basalt Police Department and Holy Cross Energy also responded, along with the construction crews.


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