Firefighters keep watch on Wingo wildfire | AspenTimes.com

Firefighters keep watch on Wingo wildfire

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

BASALT – A wildfire burning in rugged terrain about three miles southeast of Basalt is being monitored, but allowed to burn, a U.S. Forest Service official said Monday evening.

The Wingo Fire first was reported at 12:30 p.m. Sunday; it was apparently sparked by lightning on Saturday night. It began burning on land between Arbaney Gulch and Wheatly Gulch, and appeared to have spread to about 10 acres by late Monday afternoon. It was creeping from Bureau of Land Management property onto the White River National Forest, according to Ranger Scott Snelson of the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

Snelson viewed the fire from the vantage point of Light Hill in the Old Snowmass area. It was burning in oak brush and igniting some pinons ablaze.

“It blew pretty good this afternoon. We were seeing some torching of pinon,” he said Monday. “We haven’t identified any infrastructure that’s at risk from the fire.”

Firefighters with the federal Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management Unit are managing the blaze, but none have been sent in to fight it.

“It would be unsafe to get firefighters up there. With no resources in harm’s way and a cool front moving in, it’s not worth getting firefighters up there to do a frontal attack,” Snelson said.

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With predominantly southwest winds and local, upslope winds in the forecast, firefighters expect that the fire will primarily continue to burn into more rugged terrain to the northeast, according to the Forest Service. Winds were carrying smoke toward the Fryingpan Valley on Monday, but smoke moving up the valley toward Aspen is a possibility, Snelson said.

Fire managers will use a helicopter to drop water at advantageous locations to reduce the fire’s size as necessary, placing a priority on slowing and checking its spread downhill toward Highway 82, the Forest Service said.

The blaze, burning in a mosaic pattern that clears out patches of decadent, old-growth scrub oak while leaving other stands untouched, is not unlike a prescribed fire that agencies use to improve habitat by spurring new growth to benefit big game.

“There’s no question it’s good for the wildlife habitat,” Snelson said. “This is the kind of fire we like to see on the landscape.”

janet@aspentimes.com