Fire spooks midvalley, destroys structure in El Jebel on Sunday |

Fire spooks midvalley, destroys structure in El Jebel on Sunday

Basalt Police Officer Jason Hegberg arrived first on scene at a structure fire just north of Highway 82 across from the City Market parking lot on Sunday. The ridge above El Jebel burned by the Lake Christine Fire is visible in the background.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

The midvalley received another fire scare Sunday afternoon when black smoke billowed up when a structure caught on fire on the north side of Highway 82 across from the City Market parking lot.

A workshop and attached storage building went up in flames at about 4:30 p.m.

“The wind picked up and started a wildland fire behind the structure,” said Kevin Issel, deputy fire chief for the Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Department, one of the agencies that responded. Firefighters surrounded the area and prevented the spread of fire. Issel said they were still putting out hotspots as of 6:30 p.m and would remain on the scene for an indefinite time.

The cause is under investigation. Issel said a person was cutting metal in the workshop shortly before the fire broke out. Richard Cornelius, a division chief with Basalt Fire Department, said the metal work threw sparks which lit grass on fire outside the shop. The worker was unable to extinguish the flames and it caught the structure on fire.

A house is located just 50 feet east or upvalley from the workshop and was perilously close to catching on fire, Issel said. A tree between the workshop and house caught on fire but was extinguished. Issel said firefighters were cutting it down because it was still smoldering. Several campers, vehicles and a residence to the west or downvalley side were also potentially imperiled, he said. No residents or firefighters were injured.

The fire singed trees and power poles within a few hundred feet of the Shadow Rock Condominiums, which  also were threatened by the Lake Christine Fire on July 4 and 5.

The Lake Christine Fire is still fresh on minds of a lot of midvalley residents. Sunday’s structure fire was in such a visible spot along the highway and across from the busy supermarket that the communications center was deluged with people reporting it.

“They said they received twenty-two 911 one calls” almost immediately, Issel said.

While the federal firefighting effort was being scaled back over the weekend, there are still hundreds of people fighting the Lake Christine Blaze. Some federal firefighters up in Missouri Heights spotted the black smoke and came down to help fight the structure fire, Issel said.

The first firefighters arrived on Highway 82 in a brush truck, custom-built for wildland firefighting, from Sun Valley, Idaho. That was about eight minutes after the call came in. The crew started hitting the fire with a hose as other wildland firefighters arrived and Basalt Fire Department pulled in with a fire truck designed for structure fires.

Cornelius said the call from the communication center came in at 4:34 p.m. and the first Basalt fire engine arrived on the scene, at the rear of the property, five minutes later.

Firefighters surrounded the structure, hit it with water from three sides and prevented it from spreading. The workshop burned to the ground. Spectators could hear popping during the blaze. Issel said that was ammunition exploding.

Traffic on the highway was diverted onto Valley Road during the incident and reopened at 5:17 p.m.

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