Basalt Fire day 3: 0% containment, fire grows to 4,900 acres, 3 homes lost | PostIndependent.com

Basalt Fire day 3: 0% containment, fire grows to 4,900 acres, 3 homes lost

Scott Condon, Aspen Times

UPDATE  12:30 p.m. – The Lake Christine Fire has grown to 4,900 acres, according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and Roger Staats, Northern Rockies incident commander.

Two mobile homes in El Jebel burned down, Staats said. A frame house on Missouri Heights ridge has also been destroyed. There have been no injuries to firefighters or members of the public.

Staats credited local firefighters for preventing more structures from burning. “It just shows the efforts made last night. We could have lost several hundred homes,” he said.

The fire is zero percent contained as of noon Thursday, Staats added. About 500 homes have been evacuated, though that number could be higher because of the frenetic pace of operations late Wednesday and early Thursday. An unknown number of people have been displaced.

There are about 200 local and federal firefighters on the scene now. That will swell to 300 by Friday. Federal firefighters include hotshot crews, hand crews and engines.

UPDATE 11:30 a.m. – The Lake Christine Fire destroyed three homes during a “prolific ember shower” overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning, according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and U.S Forest Service.

“We’re pretty sure three structures were lost,” said Jennifer Costich, public information officer for the federal government firefighting team.

The Northern Rockies Incident Management Team took over management of the fire Thursday morning and will coordinate with local agencies.

At least one helicopter resumed water drops shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday.

UPDATE 10 a.m. – The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office advises that areas of Garfield County in the Missouri Heights area north of Highway 82 and east of County Road 100 to upper Cattle Creek are now under voluntary evacuation orders, with all of Eagle County under mandatory evacuation orders in the Missouri Heights area.

“People in Garfield County are encouraged to gather their belongings and err on the side of caution by evacuating at this time,” according to a news release. “The nature of the fire is unpredictable and a turn in weather conditions, local ambient conditions or available fuel sources could alter the course of the fire at any time. This happened last evening and the new direction required an immediate change in direction and the re-direction of available resources.

“If the fire direction changes again time may be of the essence in leaving your residence immediately,” the Garfield Sheriff also advises. “Better to evacuate now in a prepared and orderly fashion and make plans.”

Closures to the general public are currently in place on County Road 100 and County Road 102 in order to maintain and enforce the evacuation orders. Mail delivery has also been affected in the area.

BASALT, Colorado — The Lake Christine Fire was pushed overnight Wednesday into Thursday by strong winds that started around midnight and lasted into the morning hours.

Hundreds of people gathered in the parking lots of the Willits Town Center and watched early into the morning as the flames from the fire, which started Tuesday at the shooting range on the Basalt State Wildlife Area, swept toward El Jebel.

Residents first in the El Jebel area and then in Missouri Heights had mandatory evacuations as the winds pushed flames downvalley. As well, a second evacuation center has been established at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, in addition to the one at Basalt High School.

Local officials said a meeting was planned at 7 a.m. Thursday with the federal authorities who are taking command of the fire operations. A news briefing likely will be scheduled after that.

Federal authorities are setting up a command center at the Crown Mountain Park area.

The fire had burned 2,700 acres as of 7 p.m. Thursday.

Authorities issued a mandatory evacuation notice for Missouri Heights at 12:47 a.m. Thursday.

“All residents in Missouri Heights should evacuate immediately,” the alert said. “Evacuate via Fender Lane to Catherine Store Road, then take (Highway) 82.”

The hillside above the El Jebel area was aglow shortly after sunset. Calm conditions suddenly turned wicked with wind. Firefighters shot flares to the upvalley or easterly side of the El Jebel Mobile Home Park around 11 p.m. to burn fuels in a somewhat controlled manner and prevent the advance of the wildfire.

Residents El Jebel Mobile Home Park were ordered to evacuate at about 9:40 p.m. Wednesday when the Lake Christine Fire crested a ridge and winds pushed flames toward the heavily populated area.

HOW TO HELP

  • The Red Cross is looking for volunteers to help with fire relief for those affected by the Lake Christine Fire in Basalt and El Jebel. Volunteers would help with shifts at the evacuation shelters in Basalt and Carbondale. If interested, contact Pamela Herr at pjherr@yahoo.com
  • The Aspen Emporium and Flying Circus is accepting donations of water and liquids such as Gatorade in sealed containers to deliver to firefighters battling the Lake Christine Fire. You can drop off donations in boxes at the store located at 315 E. Main Street in downtown Aspen.

This is a developing story that will be updated.