Midvalley ready to say ‘thanks’ to firefighters, police for battling Lake Christine Fire | AspenTimes.com

Midvalley ready to say ‘thanks’ to firefighters, police for battling Lake Christine Fire

Hundreds gathered near Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel July 9 to greet the federal fire crews as they returned from the field fighting the Lake Christine Fire. Local firefighters and other first responders will be honored tonight.

Basalt firefighters, police and other first responders have gotten their well-deserved share of thanks and accolades over the past month, but tonight will be the big bash.

Basalt officials are turning the annual National Night Out into an opportunity for all of midvalley to say thanks for all the efforts that went into fighting the Lake Christine Fire.

Basalt-Snowmass Village Fire Chief Scott Thompson said the public has been great to the firefighters — sending food to the fire stations, buying them lunch or dinner when they see them out and about, and just approaching them to say thanks.

It's all very much appreciated, he stressed.

"Then again, it's what we're expected to do," Thompson said. "We kind of want things to get back to normal."

Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott said the officers in the department are looking forward to the chance to informally talk to the people of the community — about the fire and anything else they want to discuss.

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The department has been a co-host of the local National Night Out event for the past several years. This year, though, takes on special meaning after the Lake Christine Fire.

"I think everybody in our department feels really good about what we accomplished as a team," Knott said.

They helped evacuate neighborhoods and patrolled to prevent people from entering unlawfully. They coordinated with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office and multiple assisting law enforcement agencies. They helped come up with a response plan to flood and debris flow risks and stand ready to implement it.

It was good experience that will help Basalt in future emergencies, according to Knott.

"My learning curve has been off the charts," he said.

The firefighters held their first volunteers meeting since the fire broke out July 31 — four weeks after the start of a fire that is still 90 percent contained and holding at 12,588 acres.

There was relief that the fire no longer poses a threat, Thompson said. As fire chief, he couldn't be more proud of the combined Basalt-Snowmass fire unit. A total of 34 paid and volunteer firefighters spent the first critical 48 hours in a row fighting the fire — teaming with other regional towns' firefighters to protect El Jebel Mobile Home Park and Missouri Heights as well as neighborhoods in Basalt. They caught catnaps whenever and wherever they could, but essentially fought the fire for two days straight, he noted.

"It was a huge team effort," Thompson said.

Once the fire rolled into national forest and Bureau of Land Management holdings, federal firefighters headed the firefighting effort. An impromptu, very emotional community "thank you" was held for the federal teams at Crown Mountain Park on July 9. Now, National Night Out provides the perfect chance to show thanks to the local first responders.

The event will be held at Triangle Park in Willits Town Center from 5 to 8 p.m. Alternative transportation is strongly encouraged because parking is limited.

Aspen Skiing Co. and Roaring Fork Club are sponsoring the event hosted by the Basalt police and fire departments in conjunction with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office and town of Basalt. There will be music, refreshments and complimentary hamburgers and hot dogs.

Firefighters tend to shy away from individual recognition. Nevertheless, they will be introduced individually tonight, according to the chief.

While the firefighters and police appreciate the chance to celebrate getting past the Lake Christine Fire with the community, they also remain on alert as fire danger remains high.

scondon@aspentimes.com

IF YOU GO

What: National Night Out

Why: Opportunity mingle with first responders and specifically say ‘thanks’ for battling fire

When: Tonight from 5 to 8 p.m.

Where: Triangle Park in Willits Town Center