Lake Christine Fire 72 percent contained; Neil Diamond gives surprise concert |

Lake Christine Fire 72 percent contained; Neil Diamond gives surprise concert

Firefighters meet Sunday morning at the Lake Christine Fire command center set up at Basalt High School.
Courtesy photo

It has been a sweet weekend in the midvalley for firefighters as they made big gains on the Lake Christine Fire and were treated to an intimate version of “Sweet Caroline” by a longtime resident and music legend.

The fire is 72 percent contained, crews learned Sunday morning during a briefing at the command center at Basalt High School. Fire teams have been making headway on the blaze’s west and north sides the past few days and used heavy slurry and water drops as well as fire lines on the ground to contain that section above Missouri Heights.

In a Facebook post early Sunday, officials said: “Firefighters at morning briefing learned that all of their hard work is paying off and the #LakeChristineFire is now 72 percent contained!!”

The Lake Christine Fire, which started July 3 at the Basalt firing range, was reported Sunday at 12,588 acres.

The big jump in containment comes “after a lot of hard work by our folks. We’re really pleased with those numbers,” Rob Berger, Operations Section Chief of the Rocky Mountain Team Black, said Sunday morning. “The big plan is to get more containment on the north and northeast part of the fire today.”

He said they also are moving some crews and equipment Sunday from the west side where they gained containment to the east side of fire. (By Sunday night, the fire was reported at 82 percent contained.)

And in yet another show of support from the community, Neil Diamond stopped by over the weekend to play a private concert Friday night for firefighters.

Diamond, who has had a home in the valley for a few decades, gave his thanks and played his famous “Sweet Caroline” in the commons area at Basalt High School on Friday night.

“I love these faces,” Diamond said to the firefighters. “I want to take you all home. I want to give you a kiss. I want to make dinner for you. I just want to say thank you from the people of this area. … I’ve been here for 20 years, and you made everybody happy. The heaviness on our hearts is gone. … We thank you for making the trip and to our local guys as well.”

Diamond retired from touring in January after announcing he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease

Saturday night, midvalley residents were able to relax a bit more. At the community meeting they learned all pre-evacuation noticed were lifted, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office announced.

Officials reminded the crowd that just because the fire is contained, it is not fully out. It could burn for weeks.

A community meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Basalt High School, officials announced Sunday afternoon. It likely will be the last one before the type 2 management team moves out. Their goal was full containment before they rotate out Aug. 2.

The cost of fighting the fire was at $13.8 million as of Friday afternoon, according to the incident command team’s finance center, and more than 1,500 people from 39 states have worked the fire.

About a half-inch of rain fell on the Basalt and El Jebel areas Saturday in two separate squalls. It triggered a flash flood warning by the National Weather Service, but no issues were reported in Basalt and just a minor debris flow was reported in El Jebel.