Team Black will hand over reins on Lake Christine Fire tonight |

Team Black will hand over reins on Lake Christine Fire tonight

Fire crews gather near the Lake Christine Fire on July 27.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

The incident management team that has aggressively battled the Lake Christine Fire since July 20 will officially turn over the reins to a smaller team tonight, it was announced Tuesday morning.

Officials with Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Black are meeting with members of the incoming organization today to “ensure a smooth transition,” said a statement from Team Black.

“This change is due to the reduction in the complexity of the fire with the current 87 percent containment expected to increase today,” the statement said.

Team Black’s last community meeting will be tonight at 6 p.m. at Basalt High School.

The team has drawn public praise for firefighting and stellar communications at a time when many midvalley residents’ nerves were frayed after the fire roared back to life on July 18 and 19. Huge smoke columns roiled out of the fire once it moved into Douglas fir and other conifers further up Basalt Mountain. Missouri Heights residents were concerned they could again be imperiled. Lower Fryingpan Valley resident feared the fire could come their way.

In addition to ramping up the firefighting effort under incident commander Shane Greer and operations section chief Rob Berger, Team Black also cranked up public outreach.

Community meetings were held nightly at Basalt High School and tapered off only as the firefighting effort wound down. Information was constantly posted on a dedicated Lake Christine Fire Facebook page and video briefings usually featuring Berger were updated every morning and evening. Public information officers were stationed around the midvalley at specific times of day and media releases were sent out morning and evening.

Tuesday morning’s media release said demobilization of crews would continue today as personnel have been reassigned to other fires.

“Residents will continue to see a decrease in air support over the week,” the statement said. “The mobile retardant plant (in Missouri Heights) has been dismantled but there will continue to be two Type 1 and two Type 3 helicopters available to support work on the ground (Tuesday).”

All fire equipment was removed Monday along Fryingpan Road.

Team Black’s statement made it clear the fire isn’t out and that residents may see some growth at times due to high temperatures and dry conditions.

“As a result of this weather, residents may see increased fire behavior in the interior of the fire along Division U” which is on the east side of the fire, the statement said.

Hotshot crews and other firefighters are camping along that eastern boundary to reduce time needed to travel to the inaccessible spot. Their supplies are flown in for them. They are building a line south from a popular mountain biking and hiking trail high on the mountain.

This story will be updated after tonight’s community meeting.