Inaccessible terrain, heavy fuels make full containment of Lake Christine Fire difficult

Staff report
The Lake Christine Fire hasn't moved on the upper eastern edge for several days but it's proven stubborn containing it on steep slopes with heavy fuels.
Lake Christine Fire incident command team

Firefighters received aid Friday from cool and wet conditions as they continued to seek containment on the stubborn upper east side of the Lake Christine Fire.

While the fire has not moved in more than a week, it has not been contained on a portion of the eastern perimeter because it is burning in heavy fuels in rugged terrain where firefighters cannot directly engage it, officials with the past and current incident management team have explained.

The fire remains at 12,588 acres burned and 90 percent contained, according to a statement issued Friday by the Type 3 Incident Management Team led by Brian Anderson.

Two teams of firefighters are camping in the area around Basalt Mountain’s 10,863-foot summit to work to contain the remaining 10 percent.

Two-thirds of the Lake Christine Fire or 8,506 acres has burned on White River National Forest lands.

“While the rain could greatly assist firefighters in containing the final 10 percent of fire line still needed, it could also hamper their objectives by making an already precarious landscape more dangerous to the crews engaging the remaining fire,” the incident management team’s statement said.

“Progress has been made difficult due to the inaccessibility of the terrain and composition of the heavy fuels,” the statement continued. “Slippery, muddy conditions in the steep terrain add to hazards of falling snags and firefighter fatigue as the incident enters its second month of operations today.”

Warm and dry conditions are forecast to return for the weekend.

“We have our next wave of heat coming in,” said incident commander trainee Jason Rodriquez in a video posted Friday on the management team’s Facebook page. “When that dries out, that will actually be the tell all to see what this fire might or might not do.”

Crews on other areas of the fire perimeter are patrolling, mopping up and rehabbing fire line. There are 56 firefighters remaining assigned to the Lake Christine Fire. No definitive date for full containment has been set.

Two-thirds of the fire or 8,506 acres has burned on White River National Forest lands, according to information posted on InciWeb, a site dedicated to federal firefighting efforts. Another 2,216 acres are on state of Colorado land, primarily the Basalt State Wildlife Area. Another 1,012 acres is on Bureau of Land Management holdings. The remaining 854 acres is on private land.

Roaring Fork Valley residents may have a reprieve from smoke over the weekend.

“Residents will find an improvement of air quality this weekend since the forecasted winds and weather conditions favor dispersal of the smoke that has plagued the area to varying degrees for the past month,” the incident management team’s statement said.