Summit County fire grows to 5 acres |

Summit County fire grows to 5 acres

Summit Daily staff report
Aspen CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

KEYSTONE, Colo. – A wildfire ignited by a downed power line grew to a 5-acre blaze Monday in Summit County.

The fire, which began as a half-acre blaze alongside Montezuma Road between Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, was spread across the road by high winds that reached 40 mph.

Officials evacuated two homes in the area after the fire jumped the road onto an adjacent hillside. Other residents waiting at a nearby barricade asked for permission to retrieve pets from the area. For safety reasons, officials were recommending they stay out of the area, according to Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Lipsher.

As of late afternoon, 22 firefighters and roughly 30 local personnel were on the scene.

“We spared no resources or bodies to jump on this today,” Lake Dillon Fire Rescue Chief Dave Parmley said.

The fire is in a difficult place, Lipsher said.

“It’s on the south side of the road up in heavy timber and all,” he said, adding that with winds gusting up to 40 mph, more crews were needed to contain the fire.

“Any time you have live embers, the slightest wind can fan it into a full-blown wildfire again,” Lipsher said. “You don’t like to see a wildland fire on a day with winds like this.”

The fire in underbrush next to snowbanks was a strange sight to Parmley, who said the late March fire could be the earliest he’s seen in the high country.

“Conditions are changing rapidly,” he said. “This is indicative of the extremely dry conditions and what the wind is doing to us.”

Firefighting could extend into today, Lipsher said.

Lipsher said firefighters have been anticipating an early start to the wildfire season due to the relatively dry winter.

“We’ve put all wildland firefighting rigs through their mechanical testing to make sure they’re fully rigged for everything we need,” he said. “In addition, we moved up the annual wildland training, which will be April 1, to get them in the classroom.”

There already have been several flares along the Front Range, he said, though this is the first this season in Summit County. Lipsher said conditions are reminiscent of 2002, the year the Hayman Fire burned more than 130 homes and more than 130,000 acres near Colorado Springs. It was the largest forest fire ever recorded in Colorado.

Lipsher emphasized “heightened alert” in deciding when to burn campfires and slash piles and operate motorized tools and equipment in the backcountry. Even catalytic converters on all-terrain vehicles have ignited fires, he said.

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