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Panorama Fire nearly 95 percent contained

Lynn Burton

The 1,590-acre Panorama Fire was 95 percent contained late Thursday afternoon, and evacuees were being allowed back to their homes, said Kim Andree, Eagle County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.The blaze did not spread any farther on Thursday.Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri said the fire started around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at a house under construction at 805 Buck Point, in the Panorama Estates subdivision north of Carbondale.Dalessandri said a subcontractor, the New Castle-based Mendoza Concrete, had a seven-member crew doing foundation work on the house when the fire started. No arrests have been made.”We’re in the process of trying to locate the seven-person crew,” Dalessandri said.Dalessandri said he heard unconfirmed reports that a welder’s spark at the construction site touched off the blaze.Garfield County has had a ban on open flames all summer.

The fast-moving wildfire, which spread to 1,500 acres in less than five hours, destroyed three residences: a metal-roofed house, a double-wide trailer and a teepee that was being lived in. It also destroyed two outbuildings.In addition, two other houses were damaged by the fire.All the structures were located in an area about a quarter square mile in size, west of Spring Park Reservoir, and about a mile east of where the fire began.At least three homes were saved by the actions of firefighters, said Gary Gleason, a spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.One of those homes is a 6,500-square-foot, two-story log home on the Spring Park Reservoir shore. Flames from scrub oak next to the house’s carport made their way up a log pillar and onto the shake shingle roof, before an engine from Gypsum arrived and firefighters started pumping water on the blaze.”They did an amazing job of saving the house,” said Max Filiss, who built the house with his father, then later sold it. Filiss caught a ride with a media tour Thursday afternoon to inspect the house. “The owner lives in Houston,” he said.

While Filiss talked to reporters, a crew of firefighters, in their yellow shirts and dark green pants, worked nearby on the still smoking oak and brush.An area several football fields in size west of the reservoir was completely blackened, and the charred scrub oak, stripped of their leaves, looked gnarlier than usual. Pale smoke rose from the ashes and hovered above the ground like a fog.At a nearby double-wide trailer in Homestead Acres that completely burned, a patch of partially burned scrub oak attracted the attention of reporters Thursday afternoon. Winds as high as 40 miles per hour whipped the area, and Gleason suggested to reporters they stay away from the trees because they could re-ignite.”It wouldn’t kill you,” Gleason said. “But it would be flashy and hot.”Near the remains of the trailer, surrounded on three sides by thick stands of scrub oak, were melted snowmobiles and a burned-up horse trailer.All along Upper Cattle Creek Road, firefighters worked hot spots in fields and between houses built on lots ranging from two to 10 acres. One crew from Aspen rolled across the yard of a low lying ranch home in a red tanker truck and sprayed water on still smoldering vegetation.At the Eagle County Community Center in El Jebel, a handful of evacuees waited word from county officials on when they could return to their homes.Cindy Denton, who lives in Panorama Estates, was visiting relatives in Ohio when the fire started. She got word from a neighbor at about 8 p.m. that the subdivision was being evacuated, and flew in today.Denton said between her visits with cousins in Ohio, the airplane trip and drive to El Jebel, “I haven’t slept in a long time.”Although the estimated 300 evacuees were allowed back to their homes Thursday afternoon, Andree said residual smoke and dust could pose problems for people with asthma and other respiratory ailments.The remaining fire, it is moving northeast toward Basalt Mountain. “The active area is along Cattle Creek,” said Bill Smith from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department. “It’s difficult to maneuver around in, but it’s not an area of great concern for us.”Smith said containment comes when a fire is completely circled.”We’re confident our containment lines will hold,” Smith said. “This gives us a pretty good comfort level.”Other Panorama Fire updates include:-Eagle County property owners whose property was affected by the fire will have their current value adjusted. For more information, call the Eagle County Assessor’s office at 1-800-225-6136.-The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse Garfield and Eagle counties 75 percent of the total cost of fighting the fires.-The road closure on Upper Cattle Creek Road has been lifted.-The incident command center is now located at the El Jebel Fire Station. Scott Thompson, from the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District, is the new incident commander.-The American Red Cross shelter has been closed.-The evacuation center at the Eagle County Community Center will open at 7:30 a.m. Friday.


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