Second fire in two days puts scare into Missouri Heights
A second wildfire in two days on the west side of Basalt Mountain posed little threat to homes but a big threat to the nerves of some homeowners in Missouri Heights.
The second fire flared up at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday just as a two-person crew from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management left the nearby scene of another fire that was started by a lightning strike Wednesday night.
The first fire had been extinguished by a helicopter, which dropped seven loads of water from a huge bucket, and by ground crews from the BLM and Basalt Fire Department, who scratched a line in the dirt around its perimeter.
The second fire was so close to the first that it was impossible to tell if it was caused by a second lightning strike or a flareup of the first fire, said Bob Guion, public information officer for the Basalt Fire Department.
“It’s a serious fire. It grew from less than one acre to 10 acres in a couple of hours,” said Guion.
The fire was about a mile from the nearest home, according to Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson. Nevertheless, it stirred a lot of interest from midvalley residents and commuters when it shot a big plume of smoke into the air.
Two air tankers from the federal government’s interagency firefighting center in Grand Junction starting dropping retardant on the blaze around 5:30 p.m. The feds were also sending in two 20-person ground crews to cut fire lines around the fire, Thompson said. They were en route last night, and the first crew was expected to arrive in Basalt at dusk. Guion said they would likely pitch tents at the El Jebel fire station and go to the fire site this morning.
The repeated passes by the two single-engine air tankers reduced the plume of smoke. The fire was on BLM land at an elevation of about 9,500 feet. It was to the east of the developed portions of Missouri Heights.
Melinda Schultz, a resident of the area, said she was driving when she spotted the smoke. She didn’t hesitate to pull over at a neighbor’s house and ask them to call authorities.
She said her house was about a mile from the Panorama fire that swept through parts of Missouri Heights last summer, so she wanted to make sure this fire was reported quickly.
Last year she was packed and ready to leave the mountain because of the Panorama fire. This fire didn’t worry her quite as much.
“This had a different feel to it, due to the location and the wind direction,” Schultz said.
Smoke was the biggest threat from this blaze. Schultz said her eyes and throat were stinging, and it was impossible to keep the smoke out of the house.
Guion said the fire was along a steep, southwest-facing slope that is “fairly rough and inaccessible.” The fuels included oak brush and aspens.
On Thursday morning, the Basalt Fire Department sent in two firefighters on all-terrain vehicles to the first fire, according to Thompson. Federal firefighters were also sent to the site. The crews guided in a helicopter that dropped bucketfuls of water on the fire and contained it to a patch of 200 square feet.
Basalt and federal firefighters also knocked out a lightning-caused blaze Wednesday night on a hillside behind Lazy Glen Mobile Home Park.
Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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