Forest Service monitoring blaze near Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Forest Service monitoring blaze near Aspen

ASPEN – A wildfire above and across from Difficult Campground on Independence Pass, east of Aspen, continues to burn, because the White River National Forest Service Management Plan calls for it.

Forest officials went before the Aspen City Council and the Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday to explain the situation and how they are monitoring it.

Mark Van Every, acting deputy supervisor for the White River, said the fire is in an area where the White River National Forest Service Management Plan allows natural fires to occur.

“We’re going to allow it to play out,” he said. “It’s a natural event.”

Lightning on Monday started the fire and as of Tuesday evening, it was located about a half-mile above Highway 82, on the north side. It was about a quarter to one-third of an acre in size, said Pat Thrasher, public affairs officer for the Forest Service.

The Forest Service is monitoring the fire with ground crews during the day, as well as from the air via helicopter, and there’s a spotter located on Richmond Ridge at the top of Aspen Mountain.

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If the fire grows, the Forest Service will monitor it 24 hours a day. Officials said they are unsure if it will grow or die down – it will depend on the weather in the coming days.

Thrasher said the priority is to keep the fire from reaching Highway 82, moving toward the northwest and away from private property. If it reaches farther into the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness, the Forest Service is willing to let it burn, Thrasher added.

The popular Fritz and Fabi Benedict backcountry huts, atop Smuggler Mountain, are located about 2 miles uphill from the fire, which concerned Mayor Mick Ireland.

Van Every said if the fire does travel that direction, officials can place sprinklers in the area to ward off flames from the structures.

“We feel pretty confident that we can save those buildings,” he said.

For more information, call the Aspen Ranger District at 925-3445 or Thrasher directly at (970) 366-0039.

csack@aspentimes.com