Public officials talk ongoing recovery efforts after Lake Christine Fire, look ahead to fire season at public forum
Roaring Fork Valley residents heard from various agencies Monday evening at Basalt High School regarding ongoing projects occurring in the aftermath of last summer’s Lake Christine Fire.
“I can’t believe it’s been 10 months,” Basalt Chief of Police Greg Knott said of the July 2018 fire, allegedly sparked by two people shooting tracer rounds at the Lake Christine gun range outside Basalt.
The fire, which began the evening the July 3 and burned for several weeks, destroyed three homes, caused the temporary evacuation of thousands of residents and charred over 12,500 acres of state, federal and private lands.
Liz Roberts and Steve Hunter with the White River National Forest began the panel discussion with a brief presentation about emergency stabilization-burned area emergency response (BAER).
The second of three phases of recovery following wildfires on federal lands, BAER identifies imminent post-wildfire threats and takes immediate actions to implement stability ahead of the first major rain storms.
“There’s already a lot of natural recovery happening,” Roberts said.
Following Roberts and Hunter’s brief description of BAER, Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney explained that the town had recently signed off on a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for emergency watershed protection money.
“That grant basically allows the town, in partnership with Eagle County and with CPW [Colorado Parks and Wildlife], to start putting infrastructure and mitigation measures [in place] to protect life and property,” Mahoney said.
Echoing Mahoney, CPW Basalt District Wildlife Manager Matt Yamashita gave a brief overview of land affected by the fire, but not visible from Highway 82.
Yamashita showed the audience of roughly 60 people a picture taken of one of those wildlife areas the day after the fire started and contrasted it with a separate photo taken hours before the public meeting. The two photos showed the success of ongoing seeding efforts and the natural recovery Roberts and Hunter had previously described.
“We had aerial seeding projects, and those accounted for about 625 acres,” Yamashita said of reseeding that occurred in April.
Yamashita explained that noxious weeds still present a huge issue in the immediate area, and that CPW and the Forest Service were trying to combat them as quickly as possible.
“We are looking at a total of about 1,500 to 1,600 acres that will need to be reseeded by the end of the summer of 2019,” Yamashita said.
Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Chief Scott Thompson could not stress enough the importance of residents “hardening their homes” to protect against wildfire.
“We have had a considerable number of residents that have asked us to come to their properties. We are glad to do that,” Thompson said.
Additionally, Thompson and Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek asked that residents sign up for available emergency notification systems, including Pitkin alert, Eagle County alert and Garfield County’s emergency notification system (ENS).
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