Farmer stomps out Emma fire while firefighters tackle different, nearby blaze
Firefighters and a quick-acting farmer extinguished two separate wildland fires Wednesday before they could blow up and threaten structures.
The first fire ignited at about 4:30 p.m. on a dry, south-facing slope near the Shield-O-Mesa subdivision off of Snowmass Creek Road.
“It scared us a little bit at the beginning,” said Scott Thompson, fire chief of Roaring Fork Fire Rescue.
The fire was burning on a knoll in oak brush and sagebrush. If the strong, westerly winds present Tuesday had returned Wednesday afternoon, the fire would have posed a greater threat.
“If we would have had those winds, it would have blown toward those houses,” Thompson said.
Firefighters were able to get within about 150 yards of the flames from the nearest roadway. They had to hoof it with gear from there. The fire also burned toward snow-covered ground at the top of the knoll. The fire department responded with four engines and 15 firefighters. They were on the scene for about two-and-a-half hours. Less than 1 acre burned.
“The unfortunate thing is we can’t find the reason why it started,” Thompson said. “I’m 100 percent sure it was human caused.”
There was no telltale sign of the cause such as a cigarette butt. He said he couldn’t rule out an intentional start.
As firefighters wrapped up that effort, a second call of a wildland fire came in at 6:15 p.m. An electrical breaker “popped” on a power line near the Emma school. Sparks ignited dry grass along a fence line and ditch along Sopris Creek Road. Thompson credited a worker at Two Roots Farm, adjacent to the schoolhouse land, for extinguishing the fire before firefighters arrived.
Two Roots Farm owner Harper Kaufman said it was fortunate she was still around the farm when the fire broke out. She had left for the day but returned to put out garbage. She was hauling trash out to the road with a tractor when she saw smoke and flames.
“It was getting quite big quite quickly,” she said. She estimated the fire had spread to a patch 20 feet wide with flames up to her waist when she reached it. “Enough to scare me,” she said.
She grabbed a trashcan lid and started stomping out the flames. She stopped a passing vehicle and they called the fire department.
There had also been fire on the power pole that died out.
With many lingering questions still surrounding the fate of Aspen’s historic Old Powerhouse, City Council decided during Monday’s work session to hold off on providing staff direction on moving the preservation project forward until more information can be presented.