Forest Service: Small wildfire near Lost Man Reservoir shows need for caution
A small wildfire near Lost Man Reservoir east of Aspen last weekend emphasizes the need for backcountry travelers to be careful this dry fall, a U.S. Forest Service official said Wednesday.
A campfire escaped a fire ring between the reservoir and the wilderness boundary and burned about one-tenth of an acre before it was snuffed Monday by a helitack crew from the Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management Unit in Rifle, according to Curtis Keetch, acting Aspen-Sopris District Ranger. A helicopter was used for water drops as part of the operation, he said.
The fire was at the edge of an open area on a slope so it posed only a slight risk of spreading to forest, but it demonstrates how dry conditions are this fall. Lost Man Reservoir is at an elevation of 10,600 feet, where conditions would typically be moist enough at this time of year to prevent fires.
“It was a strong indication of what conditions are doing everywhere,” Keetch said.
The fire snuck under rocks in the fire ring, snaked around a boulder and used duff — pine needs, twigs and other natural debris — as a fuse, he said. Someone hiking through the area Sunday reported the fire to the Forest Service. The popular Lost Man Loop hiking trail remained open.
Keetch said the White River National Forest administration isn’t currently considering fire restrictions on its own or in conjunction with Pitkin County. Stage I restrictions have been in place for some time in Summit County, including the portion of the forest there.
Instead of restrictions, the Forest Service is urging forest visitors to be especially careful with fires. An uptick of activity is expected when the first rifle-hunting season opens Oct. 12.
Meanwhile, the fire management unit is waiting for optimal conditions before it ignites prescribed burns on public lands in Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield and Mesa counties. The wish list of projects includes one burn in the Roaring Fork Valley and another in the Crystal Valley.
One prescribed fire on as many as 2,000 acres is being eyed in Cattle Creek, 8 miles north of Basalt. Another project of as many as 500 acres is targeted in Braderich Creek, 4 miles west of Redstone.