All pre-evacuation notices lifted as threat shifts from fire to flood for Basalt, El Jebel
All pre-evacuation orders still in place for the Lake Christine Fire were lifted by the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday night as the concern shifted toward floods and mudslides.
The fire grew to 12,588 acres by Saturday afternoon. Although it was at 48 percent containment, leaders of the Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team Black said they have made significant progress of getting the blaze under control.
Firefighters on the northern end of the fire had toiled for days with bulldozers and other equipment to create solid lines of defense, then intentionally set fires Friday to rob the wildfire of fuel. That produced a lot of smoke Friday but also proved effective in putting the brakes on the fire, said Rob Berger, operations section chief for Team Black.
A significant number of firefighters have been switched over to the east side of the fire — in the densely wooded high country out of the line of sight from the valley floor.
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There are still 447 firefighters on the job with assistance from five heavy helicopters and two light ones. The fire is under enough control that demobilization started last night with the release of one heavy chopper.
“It will start going down from here,” said Incident Commander Shane Greer.
Team Black will likely leave within the next few days and turn it over to a smaller team for mop up, according to Greer. That has happened before. Command was shifted from a type 2 team to a type 3 team, then a type 2 team with more resources had to be called back July 19.
Greer said at a community meeting Saturday that his team won’t leave “unless we’re as certain as we can be this thing won’t wake back up.”
“The exact date of our departure hasn’t been determined but we see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Meanwhile it was rain rather than fire that was on the mind of midvalley residents. About a 1/2 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 minor debris flow was reported in El Jebel (see related story).
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Wayne Hall took a job as an air traffic controller at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in 2003 thinking he would stay for a short time. Instead he stayed for nearly 17 years and was promoted up to the position of air traffic manager. He reflected on the experience upon retirement.