Forest fire near West Vail force evacuation | AspenTimes.com

Forest fire near West Vail force evacuation

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Vail Daily photoA small wildfire broke out Friday near West Vail.

VAIL, Colo. – Dozens of firefighters were able to partially contain a wildfire that broke out above West Vail on Friday afternoon.

The fire was deemed 60 percent contained as of 8 p.m. Friday. Fire personnel left the scene for the evening at about 8:30 p.m., and 34 firefighters are expected to return at 7 a.m. this morning.

On Friday afternoon, the fire grew to an acre in size with 3- to 4-foot-high flames, said Vail Fire Chief Mark Miller. The blaze spread east over an area of lodgepole pine, officials said.

The cause of the fire was unknown, Miller said.

A helicopter and an air tanker were used to drop fire retardant and water on the flames.

No homes were evacuated and there was “minimal risk” to the neighborhood, officials said.

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Firefighters hiked to the area of the fire, which is about several hundred vertical feet above the Intermountain neighborhood on the north-facing slope. About 60 firefighters from various local and federal agencies responded to the blaze Friday.

The fire was reported at about 3:45 p.m.

Vail Mountain evacuated guests off the mountain Friday afternoon at the direction of the town of Vail, said spokeswoman Liz Biebl. The area of the fire is about a mile from Vail’s Game Creek Bowl and Eagle’s Nest. The mountain was expected to resume normal operations today, pending recommendations from fire officials this morning, Biebl said.

Over the past several years, firefighters have been thinning forests in the West Vail area to prepare for wildfires. The mountain pine beetle epidemic has killed as much as 90 percent of mature lodgepole pines in the Intermountain area, significantly raising fire risk. Vail, Eagle County and the Forest Service have been collaborating on the tree-cutting, which includes creating a barrier of “defensible space,” which aims to prevent the spread of fire from homes to the forest, or vice versa.

estoner@vaildaily.com