Panel discusses aftermath of Lake Christine Fire, upcoming flood-fire season
Roaring Fork Valley residents heard from various agencies regarding ongoing projects occurring in the aftermath of the Lake Christine Fire on Monday evening at Basalt High School.
“I can’t believe it’s been 10 months,” Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott said of the July 3 fire that was allegedly sparked by tracer rounds before going on to burn three homes, causing the temporary evacuation of thousands of residents and charring over 12,500 acres of state, federal and private lands.
Liz Roberts and Steve Hunter with the White River National Forest began the panel discussion with a brief presentation about emergency stabilization-burned area emergency response (BAER). The second of three phases of recovery following wildfires on federal lands, BAER identifies imminent post-wildfire threats and takes immediate actions to implement stability ahead of the first major storms. Roberts said there was “already a lot of natural recovery happening.”
Following Roberts and Hunter’s brief description of BAER, Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney explained that the town had recently signed off on a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service for emergency watershed protection money.
“That grant basically allows the town in partnership with Eagle County and with CPW to start putting infrastructure and mitigation measures (in place) to protect life and property,” Mahoney said.
Echoing Mahoney, CPW Basalt District Wildlife Manager Matt Yamashita gave a brief overview of land affected by the fire that was not visible from Highway 82. Yamashita showed the audience of roughly 60 people a picture taken of one of those wildlife areas the day after the fire started and contrasted it with a separate photo taken hours before the public meeting. The two photos showed the success of ongoing seeding efforts and the natural recovery Roberts and Hunter had described.
“We had aerial seeding projects and those accounted for about 625 acres,” Yamashita said of reseeding that occurred in April.
Yamashita explained that noxious weeds presented a huge issue in the immediate area and that CPW and the Forest Service were trying to combat them as quickly as possible.
“We are looking at a total of about 1,500 to 1,600 acres that will need to be reseeded by the end of the summer of 2019,” Yamashita said.
Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Authority Chief Scott Thompson could not stress enough the importance of residents hardening their homes, particularly from an ember shower.
“We have had a considerable number of residents that have asked us to come to their properties. We are glad to do that,” Thompson said.
Additionally, Thompson and Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek asked that residents please sign up for available emergency notification systems including that of Pitkin alert, EC alert and Garfield County’s emergency notification system.
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This summer in Aspen is likely to include indoor and outdoor concerts, maskless gatherings and no state or county-mandated restrictions on social distancing at restaurants or anywhere else.