Smoke from fire in Flat Tops drifts east
A huge plume of smoke billowing north of Interstate 70 on Tuesday, combined with the National Weather Service red flag warning for western Colorado, alarmed residents from western Garfield County to Eagle County.
The smoke was generated from the Lost Solar Fire on the western boundary of the Flat Tops Wilderness. That fire has been burning for nearly a month and has consumed approximately 1,000 acres in a remote part of the wilderness. Tuesday’s high winds both kicked up the blaze and spread out the smoke.
According to Kate Jerman, spokeswoman for the White River National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service has been managing the Lost Solar Fire with a “confine and contain” strategy.
“The fire has actually provided some good resource benefits,” said Jerman, noting the blaze has consumed deadfall and provided green growth areas for big game animals.
With this week’s high winds, the fire activity picked up Tuesday, and Curtis Keetch, Rio Blanco district ranger, surveyed the blaze from the air to determine changes were needed in the fire management.
“It is intimidating to see all the smoke,” said Keetch, “but right now the fire is doing exactly what we want it to do.”
Keetch said fire modeling for the Lost Solar Fire actually predicted it would blow up a couple of weeks ago, but the blaze continued to burn through thick fuel areas in a remote part of the wilderness. Keetch said the blaze remains within the area the USFS has designated.
Jerman noted with the wind impacts, the Forest Service plans a public safety closure in the Lost Solar Fire area. That action will primarily affect big game hunters, and the black powder season begins this week.
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