Heart of historic downtown Basalt partly closed amid fire emergency
Usually bustling with business, historic downtown Basalt looked more like a ghost town than a premiere residential and tourist destination following the Fourth of July.
Numerous businesses, from restaurants to dispensaries, hung signs on their doors which read, “We are closed due to the wildfire please be safe.” Also, “Thank you to our servicemen and women working on this tragedy.”
“It’s not a good situation, you know, I mean it’s awful,” Heather’s Savory Pies & Tapas Bar Owner Rene Lujan said. “My heart went out to people thinking about people losing their homes. I mean, I have several friends right now who have all been evacuated.
“Probably not going to open [Thursday night] and maybe not even [Friday],” she said.
According to several Basalt business owners, because of the nearby proximity of the Lake Christine Fire, businesses on the north side of Midland Avenue closed because of evacuation orders around 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Many, though, like Basalt resident Brad Gilbert packed his bags and hit Highway 82 long before any formal evacuation orders were sent out.
“I just left,” Gilbert, who lives just a short walk from old downtown Basalt in the Villas at Elk Run, said. “When you can see the flames …”
The flames were also enough for El Jebel resident Antonio, (who did not want his last name used) his wife and two children – one of which turned 8 years old on July 4th – to take shelter in their car at the nearby Park and Ride behind Movieland.
“I’ve been living here for 11 years and I’ve never seen something like that … It’s terrible,” Antonio said.
Antonio and his family live in a nearby mobile home in El Jebel, which was in jeopardy as of Thursday morning.
Back in the core of downtown Basalt, some residents, like Dina Belmonte, fumed over how the fire was started in the first place.
“Everybody has identified that this is the most dangerous fire season. Why didn’t they [Colorado Parks and Wildlife] follow suit?” Belmonte stated.
As previously reported by The Aspen Times and Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Lake Christine Fire blew up after two individuals shot tracer rounds at the nearby gun range. According to Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney, town officials had called Colorado Parks and Wildlife Monday with concerns regarding the range. However, their calls were unanswered before the fire exploded Tuesday.
“You know, not even as a business owner, but as somebody living in stage 2 fire restrictions, I think everybody just needs to be super responsible, because mistakes happen, accidents happen, intentional or not, and I think you have to overdue it,” old town Basalt resident and business owner Cathy Click said.
“The last gun range fire was in 2012, and that was two acres and they were able to put it out right away, but obviously it’s a persistent problem,” she said.
Click and her husband, Bernard Moffroid, who own Café Bernard in the heart of downtown Basalt, were evacuated from their home at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday by police, and then an hour and a half later found their restaurant in the same predicament.
“We’ve been here 28 years in the restaurant and there has been some little things but nothing major like that,” Moffroid said.
Although the sentiment on the ground certainly was a mixture of confusion and frustration, there was one general consensus – the heroism displayed by all of the emergency responders.
“I think they really saved us,” Click said. “What has been going on up there between our fire people and all the hot shot teams that are here plus those pilots … we owe them everything.”
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Glenwood Springs Police have arrested former U.S. Senate candidate Mark H. Aspiri of Silt on charges of criminal extortion, ethnic intimidation harassment and theft crimes involving threats made against a local Hispanic man.