Crews continue to hit Lake Christine Fire north side; containment up |

Crews continue to hit Lake Christine Fire north side; containment up

As the growth of the Lake Christine Fire slowed at the end of the week, crews were able use back burning Friday to gain more containment, which increased for the first time in nearly a week.

The fire, which has scorched 12,286 acres, is now 45 percent contained, officials said in Friday’s updates. The latter number was the first positive movement since containment dropped below 40 percent after the fire grew quickly from July 18 to 21.

Operations Section Chief trainee Rob Berger with Rocky Mountain Team Black said crews did intentional burns Friday from the upper Cattle Creek Road to the fire as it crept toward the road. Those burns on heavy fire fuels caused more smoke over Missouri Heights and El Jebel than the past few days, but officials said it would help to gain more containment by the evening.

Winds kicked up Friday afternoon, gusting to 30 mph, but the temperatures stayed in the 80s.

“It was important that the winds pushed the embers back into the main fire area instead of across the line,” said Fire Behavior Analyst Brian Anderson. “(Friday’s) burnout operations have been successful … which will help us reach containment sooner.”

For the past week, the containment was below 40 percent after reaching a high of 59 percent on July 16 (when the fire was 7,000 acres) before the fire took off July 18 up Basalt Mountain. On Wednesday, the incident commander said the team wanted to have full containment by the time his crew had to rotate off the fire after 14 days. That would be Aug. 2.

To that end, crews spent Friday increasing fire lines on the northwest edge of the burn and looked for ways to get crews on the northeastern corner.

“We’re trying to figure out how to get crews up to (that) line,” Berger said Friday of the northeast edge. “We expect progress along those lines.”

Hand crews spent Friday bringing the fire lines on the western side down to Cattle Creek Road and by the drop point 15 at the corner of the Forest Service Road 509. Hand crews, bulldozers and air drops continued working heavily Friday.

Berger said air crews Thursday dropped 54,600 gallons of water and 35,500 gallons of retardant on the fire’s north side using the mobile base set up above Missouri Heights. That work, using six helicopters, continued Friday.

“We feel more confident every day,” Berger said.

Officials have been frequently issuing Smoke Outlook reports so people with health issues can be prepared. According the outlook for today, there again will be an increase in smoke production as part of the planned operations.

“As the smoke production increases it is more dense and takes longer to clear out,” said Ethan Brown, Air Resource adviser.

A community meeting is schedule for 6 p.m. today at Basalt High School. In addition to the community meetings, there are public information officers hosting fire updates daily at four locations in the valley: the Carbondale and El Jebel City Markets each day at noon; at Willits Park 4 p.m. daily; and on Frying Pan Road just east of Stackyard Lane (by the roadside information board) at 4 p.m. daily.