Lake Christine Fire Day 5: Evacuation lifts will start Sunday around El Jebel; fire 8% contained | AspenTimes.com

Lake Christine Fire Day 5: Evacuation lifts will start Sunday around El Jebel; fire 8% contained

More fire crews continue to try to get containment on fire that's burned 5,916 acres

The landscape has changed significantly in the midvalley since the evening of July 3. This view is looking toward Capitol Peak from near the point of origin by the Basalt shooting range.

Many of those evacuated because of the Lake Christine Fire will be able to start returning Sunday and Monday, officials said Saturday night at the community meeting.

Sunday lifts will start at 8 a.m. around the El Jebel area, and then Monday morning in old town Basalt area and the Hillside District.

At the conclusion of the meeting, many attendees were happy to remain inside for a few extra minutes as much needed and welcomed rain soaked Basalt and the surrounding area.

More than 400 firefighters were in the Roaring Fork Valley took an aggressive plan of attack on the Lake Christine Fire, which started on Tuesday and has burned 5,916 acres according to the latest update at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

The fire is now 8 percent contained, fire management officials said at the meeting.

Each night crews fly over the fire to map its progress, and it grew about 650 acres from the night before (5,256 acres as of Friday morning), and about another hundred fire fighters are expected to arrive through the weekend. It was 3 percent contained as of Friday night.

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A firefighter was injured Saturday evening about 6 p.m., but the extend of the person’s injures and name were not immediately released.

The evacuation order was partially lifted Friday night. Residents north of Highway 82 and west of El Jebel Road/Upper Cattle Creek Road were allowed to return home. Eagle County estimated that 782 residents were able to return home, but 1,793 residents are still on mandatory evacuation. The population estimates were made using U.S. Census Data, the county said.

The total number of people forced to evacuate is higher than the number released Friday.

For those still displaced and other interested residents, there will be a community meeting at 5 p.m. at Basalt High School. There are about 943 total residences in the initial evacuation area based on a June 2017 flyover of the area, Eagle County said. Residents were able to return to 279 of those home while 664 remain evacuated.

Upper Cattle Creek remains closed.

During a community meeting Friday night, fire commanders said they wanted to take advantaged of the increased resources and increased humidity to try to get to 30 percent containment by Sunday night.

"In two days, I anticipate we're going to be about 30 percent contained," said Roger Staats, deputy incident commander for the Northern Rockies Incident Command.

There is a heavy smoke haze hanging over the midvalley as crews put more water on the smoldering fire and hit hot spots.

According to a Pitkin County alert sent out Saturday morning: “Areas along Highway 82 from Basalt to Carbondale and surrounding areas have been impacted. Wildfire smoke may reach unhealthy levels. If visibility is less than 5 miles in your neighborhood, avoid outdoor activity and keep indoor air clean or consider relocating temporarily.”

The re-entry process was changed Friday night. If residents have a current driver’s license with a valid address in the area or other proof of residency in Missouri Heights, they can present those at check-points at the neighborhood entry. If not, residents need to go to Basalt High School to get a re-entry tag.

For those who do get back to their homes, the sheriff’s office wants residents to call Black Hills Energy to get gas service restored. Call 888-890-5554 and press 1 to speak with an operator (this is the option to report a gas leak but will take you to an operator for help with returning).

Black Hills Energy crews are going door-to-door to contact residents who have returned.

The Aspen chamber said Saturday that American Airlines is canceling all flights in-and-out of Aspen until Monday because of flight restrictions in the area of the fire. Travelers are asked to call the airline for alternative options.

This is a developing story that will be updated.