New interagency crew takes over Lake Christine Fire

A changing of the guard tending to the Lake Christine Fire on Basalt Mountain occurred early Monday, indicating that the blaze has been tamed significantly.

The Northern Rockies Incident type 2 Management Team, which took over the fire July 5, packed up and vacated the El Jebel Community Center on Monday afternoon.

Bart Kicklighter and Alison Richard’s type 3 incident management team assumed command of the fire at 6 a.m. Monday.

“When the fire blew up on July 4, we dropped the hammer and moved to a type 2 team, which is a big group,” said Kevin Issel, deputy fire chief of the Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District. “Now we’ve transitioned to the type 3 team and they’ve take over the full show.”

The incident command post has moved to Basalt Fire Station No. 42 in El Jebel. A team of about 25 interagency federal officials are set up there, along with their tents behind the building.

Issel said moving to a smaller team is the right step in the progression of the fire, which was 59 percent contained and at just under 7,000 acres as of Monday evening.

“As the fire starts to dwindle, you don’t need as many resources,” he said. “This is very typical of the size of this fire, which isn’t making huge advances at this point.”

The northern end of the fire is still uncontained and is located in steep, rugged terrain, so it will likely continue to spread in that direction.

Smoke will continue to be visible for weeks to come and flames may be seen during the evening. Crews are continuing to monitor the fire during the day and at night.

The interagency crews are working with the Forest Service and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office on all mountain operations.

“We still have several hand crews on the line and we were running heavy helicopters with bucket drops (Monday),” Issel said of the effort on the northwest corner of the fire, which faces Missouri Heights. “They are all keeping it in check.”

He said he expects the type 3 team to be in position for the next two weeks; rain could shorten that.

“We need a soaker,” he said.

The forecast calls for warm and dry conditions for the next few days.

The temporary flight restrictions are still in effect around the fire area, but they no longer affect flights into and out of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

The restrictions affected hundreds of flights since they were enacted when the fire started July 3, after two El Jebel residents were firing tracer rounds at the Basalt shooting range. The individuals are facing felony charges.

And more details have been released regarding the structure fire that broke out Sunday evening in El Jebel, causing residents to panic a bit.

A wooden storage building with a metal roof containing 14 solar panels was a total loss, according to the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District.

A shipping container used for storage, including firearms, ammunition and reloading equipment, along with a Quonset hut, also were a total loss. Tarpaper on an adjacent home melted, although no other damage was reported to the property.

It was caused by an individual who was cutting steel on the side of the building with a cutoff saw when sparks ignited cheatgrass. The operator of the saw attempted to stomp out the fire but it rapidly spread.