Lake Christine Day 4: Crews make headway, get 3% containment, hope for 30% within 2 days |

Lake Christine Day 4: Crews make headway, get 3% containment, hope for 30% within 2 days

Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Fire crews get ready early Friday morning to head breakfast from the Salvation Army before heading out to the fire lines Friday at the Lake Christine Fire near Basalt.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

At a community meeting Friday evening, one of the operations directors for the Lake Christine Fire announced crews on Friday were able to start securing some fire lines and had achieved their first containment on the blaze, which started Tuesday evening.

The 3 per drew applause from the crowd, but was gained a greater appreciate was the weather prediction for the next two days.

“We actually have a chance of wetting rain in the next two days. If it get a half-inch of rain it won’t put it out … but it will buy us a lot,” Roger Staats, Northern Rockies incident commander, told the crowd at Basalt High School. “We don’t anticipate a lot of fire growth the next two days.”

After the weekend, the next chance of rain isn’t until late Wednesday, he said.

“We feel we can get to 30 percent containment in the next two days” if the weather predictions are correct, said Keith Brink, operations section chief for the Northern Rockies Incident Command team, which took control of the firefighting effort Thursday. He said as of overnight Thursday into Friday morning, the fire was mapped at 5,256 acres.

What also gave the crowd more optimism was some residents in Missouri Heights were being let back into the area late Friday night.

According to county officials, road closures and mandatory evacuation orders were lifted, for residents only, for the area north of Highway 82 and west of El Jebel Road/Upper Cattle Creek road to the Garfield County line. Upper Cattle Creek Road remain closed.

This will allow approximately 150 evacuated families to return to their homes, officials said.

Earlier in the day during  a tour of the wildfires in Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton stopped at the Lake Christine Fire command center to get an update on the fire that’s charred more that 5,200 acres and displaced nearly 2,000 people.

Meanwhile, the danger posed by the fire eased enough Thursday night that the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office lifted a voluntary evacuation for Missouri Heights residents in Garfield County.

A mandatory evacuation remains in effect for residents in parts of Missouri Heights in Eagle County, which is generally closer to the fire line. The road closures will be moved to the county line at Fender Lane and Harmony Lane, the sheriff’s office said. The Garfield County area has been reopened, the sheriff’s office said.

“Be alert to your surroundings, as always, and aware of changing weather conditions,” the sheriff’s office advised in a statement. “Understand that the air quality in this area will be significantly compromised at times due to the proximity of the fire.”

There will be another community meeting at 6 p.m. Friday at Basalt High School and those who have been evacuated can get their re-entry tags.

The evacuations will remain in effect for an indefinite time in the Eagle County portion of Missouri Heights and other neighborhoods of Eagle County.

Hickenlooper, Gardner and Tipton were joined by a number of state and local elected officials to get an update on the fire, which was started Tuesday evening by two people allegedly shooting tracer rounds at the Basalt State Wildlife Area.

When Hickenlooper was asked how much financial support the federal government was committing, he said “not enough” while gesturing at the federal officials.

As of late Thursday night, the fire numbers were: 5,263 acres burned; zero percent containment; three homes lost; 1,971 people evacuated.

Garfield County asked people who don’t live in Missouri Heights not to drive into the area.

“This is important to allow local and emergency traffic adequate entry and egress,” the sheriff’s office said.

Going into Day 4, the fire has grown to over 5,200 acres and is zero percent contained.

The forecast for today is similar to Thursday — temperatures in the 80s and 20 percent humidity. There is a threat of thunderstorms and showers after 2 p.m., which can be a cause of concern if lightning ignites below fire crews.

Fuels from pinyon juniper are carrying the fire and there’s increased activity in the northwest corner. At the bottom of the fire, there are spots that are smoldering and could flare up again, agency heads warned.

Today’s goal is to improve the line leading to Spring Park Reservoir and get a better handle on improving the area near the Tree Farm and the El Jebel Mobile Home Park. Crews also will look around the north edge of the fire to see if there are “areas of opportunity,” an official said at the briefing.

A second Hot Shot crew is coming in today, as are more helicopters. Air attacks were to begin at 9 a.m. A total of five helicopters will be on the fire today, with aircraft coming in when needed.

Meanwhile, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office informed residents of evacuated neighborhoods that they need to register for a “re-entry tag” to prepare for when they can return. They need to register at the Basalt High School shelter, 600 Southside Drive today.

Officials are closing the center that was set up at Roaring Fork High School, they announced Friday afternoon.

Eagle County officials said there was some confusion among evacuees about the location and time to pick up the tags. At this time, the tags are only available at the Basalt shelter, which is open until 8 p.m.

Eagle County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Amber Barrett said the future details for issuing tags will be assessed Friday night. She also stressed that people shouldn’t feel the must rush to get the tag. There will be plenty of opportunities to get them prior to any evacuated neighborhoods in Eagle County reopening.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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