Grass fire edges close to residences in Basalt before getting snuffed | PostIndependent.com

Grass fire edges close to residences in Basalt before getting snuffed

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

A gravel path and a fortuitous wind shift Friday afternoon helped Basalt firefighters control a grass fire along Highway 82.

The fire torched about 2.5 acres north of Highway 82 between West Two Rivers Road and Original Road — immediately below the high-density neighborhoods of the Pine Ridge Townhomes and Aspen Junction.

Pine Ridge resident Mary Kenyon said she and a neighbor spotted the blaze early on when flames were leaping eight to 10 feet high. They started banging on doors to make sure residents were aware and could be ready to dash.

Kenyon said she opened her garage, put her keys on her bumper and had her dog ready to go in case she had to evacuate.

"I was ready to go," she said.

She watched the firefighting effort and determined it was safe to remain. A gravel path prevented the fire from climbing the slope closer to the townhomes, she said, and the wind fanned the fire east or upvalley.

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The fire sent billowing clouds of black-and-white smoke into the air. Numerous motorists passing by on Highway 82 reported the blaze at 2:02 p.m.

Basalt Fire Department had a small brush truck and at least three firefighters on the scene almost immediately, but another engine didn't arrive for approximately 15 minutes. Once other engines and additional firefighters arrived, the fire was under control in a matter of minutes. The fire burned in a long, narrow swath parallel to the road.

Basalt Deputy Fire Chief Pete Bradshaw said the cause of the fire wasn't immediately known. There was a pickup truck with a flat tire on the shoulder of Highway 82 close to the west end of the fire. It was uncertain if the events were related.

The gravel path played an important role as a firebreak that prevented the fire from jumping into pinyon and juniper brush mixed with residences, Bradshaw said. Equally important, he said, was the wind shift. It was initially pushing the fire up the hill, then shifted and came out of the west.

Residents of the area were given an evacuation order via reverse 911 early on, but that was lifted a short time later, Bradshaw said. Highway 82 was closed temporarily during the firefighting effort.

The fire departments of Snowmass Village and Carbondale assisted in fighting the blaze. Firefighters remained on the scene to douse hotspots until around 5 p.m.

Bradshaw said the fire was a reminder that conditions remain dry.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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