Lake Christine Fire crews work on interior hot spots over weekend

Staff report
Deer head into charred terrain of the Basalt State Wildlife Area in early August after leaving an alfalfa field that survived intact.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times file photo

The small crew working on the Lake Christine Fire went inside the burn area over the weekend to focus on hot spots in some difficult terrain, officials said Monday in a weekly update.

The fire, which started July 3 at the Basalt shooting range, continues to smolder on the interior, and a crew of six firefighters was dropped in to work on areas on Basalt Mountain, fire officials said in Monday’s statement.

“Generally, the northern part of the fire and some areas up high on Basalt Mountain continue to hold heat along with some smoldering aspen stands,” Kate Jerman, public information officer for the White River National Forest, said in an email. “All smoke and smoldering hot spots are well within the fire perimeter. The majority of these hot spots are located in inaccessible terrain where firefighter safety is a concern.”

The ground crews helped direct several water drops on some persistent hot spots this weekend, she added.

The fire remains at 90 percent containment and has burned 12,588 acres. Currently, there are 16 firefighters working the fire to patrol containment lines, repair fire lines and work on hot spots. At one point, there were nearly 550 firefighters working the blaze at its peak.

Jerman said cooler temperatures and rain over the past few weeks has continued to help efforts, but “wisps of smoke and smoldering is expected to persist from the interior with the warm, dry and breezy weather” predicted this week. A red flag warning for “high winds and extreme fire conditions” has been issued by the National Weather Service for 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The eastern perimeter is where the fire remains officially uncontained because the area is in rugged terrain where firefighters cannot directly engage it.

Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer said late last month that the fire likely will be out by late October and could wind up costing about $18.5 million to fight.