Lake Christine Fire moves north; containment lines holding
Crews working the Lake Christine Fire continued Sunday to focus on the north and northeast side of the fire, securing an area along upper Cattle Creek Road near eight private cabins.
At Sunday night’s community meeting, officials said the fire was measured at 11,459 acres Sunday morning after flames moved into heavy beetle-kill areas on Basalt Mountain over the weekend. It continues to burn on U.S. Forest Service land. The cost of the blaze, as of Sunday evening, is $9.9 million.
The fire, which started July 3, was reported at 8,800 acres Saturday morning and continues to burn to the north, sending a large column of smoke into the sky all day Saturday and part of Sunday. The column could be seen from Independence Pass and down the valley and east toward Eagle.
“The last couple of days, Saturday more than today, there was a smoke column that could be seen from long distance away,” said Rocky Mountain Team Black incident commander Shane Greer on Sunday night. “The smoke column looks a lot closer than it is. … Smoke columns are further away than they appear, kind of like a passenger-side mirror that says objects may appear closer than they are.
“With the smoke columns we realize it looks ominous, which is why we went to four updates (on the incident team’s Facebook page) the past few days so you could know where the fire was.”
As the fire moves toward upper Cattle Creek, it is moving from thick timber fuels to aspen and Gambel oak, officials said.
“The fire’s progression at this point is down to the Cattle Creek Road” and to the north, said Rob Berger, operations section chief with Rocky Mountain Team Black on Sunday morning. “We’ve had reports from our folks on the ground this morning that all the structures are in really good shape and the fire is actually moderating in its burning intensity and is backing down hill towards the road. It puts us in a good spot to be able to action on that fire later on this morning when we get more resources in the area.”
Air crews dropped fire retardant in the area and ground crews worked to add sprinklers in the area of the cabins and trimmed vegetation for a more defensible space. The eight cabins have been evacuated and are in the line of the fire but on the other side of Cattle Creek Road. The plan is to keep the fire from jumping the road.
They are prepared to start back fires and “use fire to fight fire” in that area if needed, Berger said Sunday night.
In the northwest area where the fire is most active, hand crews, heavy equipment and aviation resources were used over the weekend “to improve and extend direct containment line.” Predominantly western winds have helped in that area, the incident team said, and direct containment lines there were held despite increased fire activity.
Containment was listed at 39 percent, which was a drop from 59 percent late last week. There are nearly 400 personnel working the fire.
“Containment has gone down, but that doesn’t mean we lost any containment lines. It’s really a math problem,” Berger said. “The fire has gotten bigger, but doesn’t mean we’ve lost any of our containment.”
Because of an increase of “looky-lous” over the weekend, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office had to set up checkpoints because stopped cars were interfering with equipment and firefighters trying to get to that part of the fire, Undersheriff Mike McWilliam said Sunday night. Only residents of the area are allowed in the area, and the checkpoints have helped, he said.
Berger said a portable fire retardant operation is going to be set up on above the northern edge of the fire early this week. Starting today, hand crews are going to go into the blackened area to start checking and making fire lines on the fire’s interior.
Squirm Night at the GrassRoots TV studio Wednesday evening for Aspen City Council candidates drew out some lively discussion showing differences in the candidates, if not entirely heated, in the short hour they had.