Wilderness fire northeast of Aspen grows to 695 acres, poses no threat to structures
Howling winds Sunday increased the size of the Granite Lake Fire to 695 acres, the U.S. Forest Service said Monday.
The fire was 113 acres Saturday. Persistent winds from the south spread the fire into heavy patches of downed timber and woody debris left over from avalanches last winter.
The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District will issue an emergency closure of National Forest System Road 504 into the South Fork of the Fryingpan and the South Fork Pass Trail, No. 1940, beginning Tuesday.
The Granite Lakes Trailhead is about 32 miles east of Basalt in Fryingpan Valley. The lakes are 6 miles from the trailhead. The fire is south of the lakes, on the west face of a valley floor in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness.
The fire was likely caused by lightning last month, according to Forest Service officials. It smoldered for a couple of weeks before heavy winds kicked it up last weekend.
The wildfire isn’t threatening structures but it is moving toward water diversion infrastructure.
“Measures are being taken to prevent impacts to the infrastructure; these may include implementing a sprinkler system or removing and clearing vegetation in the area,” the Forest Service said in a statement. “The diversion infrastructure is not located in the wilderness, but is surrounded by wilderness on three sides.”
Firefighters are monitoring the wildfire from the air and on the ground. Two fire engines are patrolling the Fryingpan Valley.
Fire managers have evaluated the terrain, anticipated weather patterns and the fire’s location. One concern is putting firefighters at risk in the steep, rocky terrain where there are no values in danger. Fire managers will implement a “confine and contain” strategy to minimize the risk to firefighters and the public. They will use natural barriers such as cliff bands to check the fire.
“The Granite Lake Fire will likely burn and smolder until a season-ending event occurs,” the Forest Service statement said. “Firefighters will remain assigned to the fire, patrolling the fire area from the ground and air. Variances in weather, topography and available fuels will affect the fire’s behavior; at times it may become more active and produce increased smoke.”
The smoke could be visible in coming weeks from Summit County, the Homestake Valley in Eagle County, Leadville and parts of the Upper Fryingpan Valley and Roaring Fork Valley.
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Update 6 a.m. Monday: I-70 eastbound was reopened between mile markers 105 and 114, New Castle to Glenwood Springs, just before 3 a.m. after an overnight closure due to a minor injury, multi-vehicle crash.