Treasure fire burns between Leadville and Alma
June 25, 2012
LEADVILLE, Colo. – The Treasure fire is burning near Mosquito Peak outside of Leadville, on the west side of the Mosquito Range.
Apparently human-triggered, the blaze was reportedly 100 acres as of Saturday, but had grown to 320 acres by Sunday evening. The fire is roughly 10 percent contained and is listed as a Type 4 incident, placing it lower on the priority list for resources.
Though Breckenridge residents reported ash blowing into town Saturday, the fire is burning roughly 10 miles south of the base of the Tenmile Range, closer to Alma. Historically, fires that reach upper-mountain elevations and encounter rocky terrain with little to burn don’t creep up and over ridges.
“We typically look at alpine vegetation and tundra as a barrier to fire spread,” Forest Service public information officer Sarah Gallup said. “There have been fires that have crossed it, but they have been remarkable.”
Gallup has been in communication via radio and some cellphone calls with hand crews who are hiking to the fire from the end of Birdseye Gulch Road, a four-wheel drive road off Highway 91 that comes within a half-mile of the base of the blaze. They’re navigating steep terrain, mostly comprised of lodgepole pine, Englemann spruce and subalpine fir.
On the ground are two complete hand crews from Montana and Oregon comprised of 20 firefighters each. One is a commercial contract crew and one is a Native American Bureau of Indian Affairs crew from the Crow Agency. Another half-size crew (10 firefighters) are on site from AmeriCorps. A medium-sized helicopter is also assisting with the blaze.
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Officials handling the fire have ordered additional crews. Two fires are burning outside of Colorado Springs, which are demanding additional resources. The Springer fire is currently 1,145 acres and is listed as a Type 2 incident, while the Waldo Canyon fire is three miles west of Colorado Springs and is currently at 2,000 acres and is listed as a Type 4 incident.
The High Park fire near Fort Collins is raging at slightly more than 81,000 acres (a 17 percent increase since Saturday) and is 45 percent contained. It is listed as a Type 1 incident, demanding significant resources, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
As of Thursday, the National Interagency Fire Center reported 19 active large fires covering nearly 500,000 acres nationwide. Since then, the Forest Service mapping program shows Colorado’s three fires have doubled to six, now covering nearly 109,000 acres.
The Treasure fire isn’t threatening any lives or structures. Lake County Commissioner Mike Bordogna said the closest structure is reportedly 3.7 miles away from the blaze and is moving north and east, purportedly toward Climax Mine, which has significant defensible space.
Flames seem to have stopped as they reached timberline on the eastern edge of the fire, toward the upper elevations. To the north, a grassy meadow has slowed the spread, so crews are concentrated on the remaining sides to get the fire completely contained, Gallup said.
“The spread to the sides isn’t doing a whole lot this morning,” Gallup added Sunday, explaining that low wind speeds are helping. “We see potential for a good day. It is a full-suppression strategy.”
According to the National Weather Service, wind speeds should hover around 5-10 miles per hour in and around Leadville on Monday. Crews could contain the fire, but then again, anything can happen.
“Things are looking better than [Saturday],” Bordogna said from his vantage point in Leadville. “There’s not the large plume of smoke. Obviously resources are a little short because of the Colorado Springs fire. … But, (fire officials) feel like they’re going to make some significant headway today.”
With the top of the fire at nearly 12,000 feet, the ground is covered with about a foot of litter and duff that will require a post-fire monitoring crew.
“We will need moisture to handle that,” Gallup said. “There will be interior burning probably for weeks.”