Two Elk fire sparks in Minturn on Saturday
A fire sparked at the Minturn gun range on Saturday, Sept. 29, causing plumes of smoke in the area and prompting Vail Mountain to implement a precautionary evacuation.
The Two Elk fire started around 12:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, prompting immediate responses from The Eagle County River Fire Protection District, the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, Vail Fire Department and Eagle County Sheriff’s Department.
The fire had grown to approximately 10 acres as of 2:30 p.m., according to the Eagle County River Fire Protection District. By that time, the US Forest Service, Gypsum Fire Department, two helicopters, a single-engine air tanker and a Type 2 hand crew had all joined the effort to contain the fire.
Strong winds reaching 16 mph antagonized the containment effort throughout the afternoon, as the fire pushed uphill through a crackling mix of grass, mountain shrub and conifer.
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‘It kept spreading’
The steep terrain along the hillside also caused accessibility issues for the ground control efforts. “They could only get the little fire trucks up there so it kept spreading,” says area resident Josie Spegel.
At 3:36 p.m., Vail Mountain began evacuation protocol as a “precautionary measure to keep our guests and employees safe,” according to the @VailMtnAlerts Twitter feed.
The fire broke out amid State 1 fire restrictions, which were re-implemented on Aug. 31 after dry conditions persisted throughout the county. Shooting at gun ranges is permitted during Stage 1 fire restrictions, though there are limitations on what types of targets and ammunition can be used.
This will be the second fire at the Minturn range this summer. On June 9, an individual shooting at flammable targets sparked a small fire, though that fire was quickly extinguished.
There are currently no other closures or evacuations in the area. According to a press release from the Upper Colorado River Fire and Aviation Management Unit, “The Minturn Shooting Range/Two Elk Shooting Area is closed due to ongoing fire operations. The Two Elk Trail is also closed. No other closures or evacuations are in place at this time. The public is asked to please avoid the area.” Furthermore, the interagency unit asks the public to “please refrain from flying drones in the area. Remember, if you fly, we can’t.”
As of Saturday evening, cause of the fire is still unknown.
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A leading critic of the Basalt shooting range contends Colorado Parks and Wildlife hasn’t done enough to make the public facility “fire safe.” CPW officials counter they have bolstered fire safety since the 2018 Lake Christine Fire and continue to eye improvements.