Lake Christine Fire update: 82 percent contained, 3 of 4 area power lines restored |

Lake Christine Fire update: 82 percent contained, 3 of 4 area power lines restored

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

As crews aim to completely contain the Lake Christine Fire within the next couple of days, other non-firefighting groups, such as valley-wide power providers, also are working tirelessly in the aftermath of the incident.

About one month after the fire flared up July 3, officials hope to fully surround the fire this week, focusing right now on the north and northeast regions.

Another community meeting, which team leaders are optimistic will be the last, is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at Basalt High School. The type 2 team working on the Lake Christine Fire, called the Rocky Mountain Area Incident Management Team Black, is expected to reach total containment before it rotates out Thursday. As of Monday, the 12,588-acre fire was 82 percent contained.

Meanwhile, Holy Cross Energy is working on its return to normalcy, with three of its four power lines back up and running.

Altogether, nearly 65 power poles between Holy Cross and Xcel Energy — the “bulk power provider” and transmission operator throughout the valley — were damaged and replaced as a result of the Lake Christine Fire, according to Holy Cross Energy chief executive officer Brian Hannegan.

“I think this is the most significant fire we’ve had in the last several years, in part because of where it took place,” Hannegan said Monday. “The area that it burned was a location where we had four major lines serving the upper Roaring Fork Valley, including Aspen, and three of those four lines were severely impacted.”

One power line in the Missouri Heights area is still out, but Holy Cross rerouted its power supply so that it is not an issue for residents right now, he said.

With an increase in electricity use during the fall and winter months, Hannegan said it should be fine so long as the fourth power line is fixed before the ski season, which is the plan.

“Right now, the hold up is getting the distribution,” Hannegan said, noting a high demand for replacement poles and wires with other wildfires throughout the state. “When we get the materials, we’ll head back out into the field and fix that line.”

Between the two power providers, Hannegan said there have been about 90 total people, “mostly from Xcel,” working in the field throughout the fire’s monthlong span. Mark Stutz, a spokesman for Xcel Energy, estimated the company had about 60 workers for the restoration effort.

Xcel also sent two heavy-lift helicopters to assist with the power poles.

Hannegan said the companies are still calculating the total cost of the repair work and declined to estimate.

In an update Monday morning, fire officials reported there is a small section along on the north side near Forest Service Road 509 that still needs to be contained and has “spot fires that range in size from 4 to 7 acres.” On the east side, hotshot crews and air drops will focus on the fire from the Basalt Mountain Trail intersection to the south, according to the update. Other fire-related work as of late involves minimizing the “noticeable and long-term impacts of the constructed fire lines,” officials said, such as filling in trenches and spreading out the piles of vegetation and dirt.

Crews are being sent to other fires in the state, and currently there are 390 personnel on the Lake Christine Fire. The type 2 team working on the Lake Christine Fire will not be sent to the Cache Creek Fire, Kate Jerman of the U.S. Forest Service said Monday. The organization decides its teams based on availability and proximity, she said.

The people suspected of starting the fire — 23-year-old Richard Miller and Allison Marcus, 22, both El Jebel residents — are scheduled to be in Eagle County District Court in Eagle this morning for a bond hearing. They are facing four felony counts each related to allegedly starting the fire on July 3 by firing tracer rounds at the state wildlife area shooting range near Basalt. They currently are free on a $7,500 bond each.

The three homes destroyed have a combined value of $2.65 million, according to an arrest affidavit. Miller and Marcus each face three fourth-degree felony arson charges as well as a Class 6 felony charge of firing woods or prairie.

Randy Wyrick contributed to this report.