Should Basalt trust CPW’s wildfire mitigation?
September 16, 2018
Basalt's shooting range reopened without a commitment by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to relocate it as recommended unanimously (5-0) by Basalt Town Council, whose downtown is less than 2,000 feet from the range.
Should Basalt's residents be concerned that yet another wildfire will start at the range?
Consider these assurances from CPW, as reported by the Aspen Times: "Perry Will, Area 8 wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, met with Basalt Fire Department officials Tuesday to assess the fire-prevention steps taken. Will said the firefighters advised him there was more defensible space in critical areas, and successful steps were taken to prevent a fire from spreading."
As described in this newspaper, three main efforts were undertaken. The first was creating a 30-foot-wide, quarter-mile-long fire break. The second was removal of lower branches from trees to prevent grassfires from spreading into the tree canopy. For the third component, "A bulldozer operator built up a berm behind the targets at the rifle range. The berm is now about 20-feet high. It will prevent bullets from passing through targets and striking the hillside farther back. Bullets could previously hit rocks and generate sparks."
Basalt's Deputy Fire Chief was quoted as saying the wildfire that prompted the mitigation "was kind of our worst-case scenario."
But the "worst-case" wildfire he cited, and all of the subsequent mitigation efforts described above, occurred not in 2018 but in 2012. Given that this summer's Lake Christine Fire originated at the Basalt range, CPW's successful 2012 wildfire mitigation efforts clearly failed.
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It is obvious that the range is in a fire-prone location. Basalt and nearby communities would rest easier if the state declared the current reopening temporary while a better and safer midvalley location is determined.