Midvalley wildfire spooks residents | AspenTimes.com

Midvalley wildfire spooks residents

A fire torched at least 50 acres in a sparely developed, large-lot subdivision above Missouri Heights yesterday. It didn’t damage any homes but the blaze had midvalley residents thinking “here we go again.”At press time last night the fire was still burning about nine miles north- northeast of Carbondale, just west of Consolidated Reservoir.Authorities dubbed the incident the High Aspen fire because of its proximity to the High Aspen Ranch. But the blaze was actually in the adjacent Homestead Estates subdivision, according to Karen Toth, one of four owners of the High Aspen Ranch development. She said the fire didn’t burn into High Aspen Ranch but was visible from parts of it.The fire started near a residence in Homestead Estates, where there are about 15 homes on 35-acre lots. Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said the cause is under investigation. He ruled out lightning because the weather was clear and dry the past two days.Vallario indicated that human activity will be examined. A source indicated that a barbecue was held Sunday at the residence closest to the fire.Fires are banned on private property in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties because of dry conditions.The fire was considered uncontained last night but it had died down and firefighters were scratching breaks around the area. A helicopter and a single-engine aircraft assisted during the late afternoon and into the evening. Air tankers had been called in from Ogden, Utah, and at least one appeared to be on the scene at 5:30 p.m. Carbondale authorities couldn’t confirm that an air tanker was used nor could they provide information on the number of passes made by aircraft dumping water or retardant.Toth said she witnessed the helicopter dumping water it had loaded at Consolidated Reservoir. She also saw aircraft make several passes and dump retardant.The fire was reported at 1:17 p.m. Firefighters from Carbondale, Basalt, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management responded. An “honor crew” from a minimum security prison in Rifle also responded, authorities said.The firefighters were assisted by the low-density development and the wind direction, which was blowing the flames away from the homes, according to Mark Luttrell, a spokesman for the Carbondale Fire Department.”Right now it’s laying down because of the higher humidity and lower winds,” Luttrell said last night.Vallario said the air tanker had been requested as a precaution to make sure the fire didn’t climb a ridge, spread and threaten more heavily developed areas. No evacuations were required. The fire was on private land in an area where scrub oak gives way to aspen trees. Aspens are usually thought of as natural fire breaks. That demonstrates just how dry conditions remain despite more frequent showers this summer than the last two, authorities said.When white smoke drifted up yesterday it created a false impression from the valley floor that the densely populated part of Missouri Heights was threatened like two summers ago. The Panorama fire in summer 2002 destroyed two homes and threatened many more.That fire struck about 6.5 miles south of the current fire.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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