RFOV helps boost wildfire safety with reseeding project at Basalt shooting range

Burned trees surround the Basalt Shooting Range on Thursday, May 28, 2020. The Lake Christine Fire broke out at the range on July 3, 2018. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times).
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

The effort to safeguard the Basalt shooting range got a boost this weekend when volunteers reseeded an old road that has been reworked to provide a fire break.

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers had 40 people signed up to help establish the fire break on about half a mile of old road, said Jacob Baker, RFOV communications and outreach director. The project is part of RFOV’s ongoing efforts to help heal the damage of the Lake Christine Fire from July 2018 and make the area less prone to wildfires.

The Lake Christine Fire broke out at the shooting range when two shooters violated rules and used incendiary ammunition. Fire ignited in dry vegetation behind the shooting range and exploded out of control. The fire burned about 12,500 acres and threatened Basalt, El Jebel and the east side of Missouri Heights in following days. Three homes were destroyed and thousands of people were evacuated.

After the fire, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the owner and operator of the shooting range, and the town of Basalt appointed a citizen panel to examine fire prevention and other issues at the shooting range. Several mitigation steps were recommended by Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Chief Scott Thompson.

“That was one of our suggestions to greenspace around the range,” Thompson said Friday. “A greenspace only works if it’s irrigated and lush and holds moisture.”

Irrigated pastures upslope from the shooting range within Basalt State Wildlife Area slowed the spread of the fire temporarily, he noted.

CPW has chipped away at refinements to ease fire hazards at the shooting range in recent years. It brought a bulldozer and excavator to the site in April 2021 to widen and clear an old road that was used decades ago to install power lines. The road is upslope from the pistol, rifle and shotgun ranges.

CPW aimed to tap Basalt’s water supply or springs on the lower slopes of Basalt Mountain to irrigate the road cut after it was reseeded.

Baker said it was his understanding that no water sources could be secured, so CPW installed a 5,000-gallon water tank on site. A contractor will regularly haul water to the site. Thompson said the tank is connected to a gravity-fed system to irrigate the road cut once it is reseeded.

Thompson previously said the widened and cleared road also will provide access so that firefighters can drive equipment to upper slopes rather than hike. Once the vegetation starts growing, it will shield a road scar visible throughout the midvalley, he said.

Baker said volunteers were also to work on reclaiming social trails created in the Basalt State Wildlife Area in the vicinity of the shooting range.

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