Weather helps quell S’mass fire |

Weather helps quell S’mass fire

The Snowmass Creek fire was extinguished Saturday, but the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will continue to monitor the site for the next week.

By Friday evening, firefighters had contained 50 percent of the fire, which burned 51 acres in Old Snowmass. On Saturday, cooler, wet weather further aided firefighters’ efforts, basically extinguishing the blaze.

“The return of fall weather helped tremendously in bringing final control to the fire,” said sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Lumsden. “Local fire and law enforcement will monitor the [area] for the next week to make sure the fire is completely out, but at this time no one is dedicated to fighting the fire.”

All 80 firefighters ” an equal mix of federal and local crews ” were sent home Saturday.

According to a press release from fire officials, the blaze was caused after high winds knocked down a power line near the home of Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Just hours before the fire ignited, the National Weather Service issued a “red flag” warning indicating low humidity and high winds.

As winds continued to howl through Thursday evening, igniting additional terrain, residents began preparing for the worst.

“It was something like you would’ve seen on the cover of Time magazine,” said D.D. Gerdin, who owns a home with her husband, Victor, near Snowmass Creek Road.

The Gerdins spent most of Thursday night preparing for the worst ” running their sprinklers and clearing brush and tall grass surrounding their home.

Luckily, the fire began to die down in the middle of the night.

“It sure looked like big, massive flames,” Victor Gerdin said. “It was really a bright sky, and then all of a sudden it just died.”

In addition to the helpful weather, firefighters benefited from two other natural occurrences.

Paul Blangsted of the Snowmass fire department said the fire was in a bowl-shaped area, which prevented the fire from rapidly expanding.

“It was shielded a little bit from the wind,” he said. “And some of the topographic features had some rock cliff bands that helped keep it in that perimeter.”

The time of year didn’t hurt, either.

“If the leaves had still been on the oak brush, it would have been a different story,” Blangsted said.

“Luckily, it was November instead of August,” Victor Gerdin added.

Steve Benson’s e-mail is

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