New team takes over Lake Christine Fire, firefighting cost estimate at $16.8 million | CraigDailyPress.com

New team takes over Lake Christine Fire, firefighting cost estimate at $16.8 million

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Monday was a day of transition on the Lake Christine Fire as firefighters and Mother Nature continued to make progress snuffing it out over the weekend.

The type 3 incident management team that’s been on the fire for one week announced it will turn the reins over to a type 4 team today.

The U.S. Forest Service said lands within the fire perimeter will remain closed through winter and reassessed next spring. That includes land on and near Basalt Mountain.

The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service announced how businesses and homeowners can get their property assessed to determine potential problems with floods and debris flows.

NEW TEAM TAKES CONTROL

The type 3 team led by incident commander Brian Anderson will hand off the Lake Christine Fire at 6 a.m. Tuesday to a type 4 team from the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit led by Dan Nielsen.

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The goal remains 100 percent containment and extinguishment.

“The weather pattern that lingered over Basalt during the past weekend assisted the work of five crews in reducing the complexity of the fire and enabled the Type 3 organization currently running operations to meet their short-term objectives,” said a statement from Anderson’s team Monday.

“Those objectives include no visible smoke for two days within one chain (66 feet) of the fire line, 100 percent mop up of all spots on Division S located on the north side of the fire, ensuring that all spots are lined and there is minimal smoke emanating from Division U located in the challenging terrain along part of the fire’s eastern edge,” the statement continued.

A total of one-half inch of rain fell on the fire Friday through Sunday. The rain helped but didn’t extinguish the fire. It remained 90 percent contained at 12,588 acres.

The firefighting effort has cost an estimated $16.8 million, Anderson’s team estimated Tuesday.

There are 55 personnel involved in the firefighting and administrative effort. That includes four engines with crews and one light helicopter with a helitack crew.

SAFETY CLOSURES ON BASALT MOUNTAIN

The White River National Forest tweaks the closure area to allow the reopening of some lands outside of the fire perimeter. However, lands within the fire perimeter will be closed through the winter and assessed next spring.

“We want the public to be able to access their National Forest and remain safe while doing so,” Karen Schroyer, Aspen-Sopris District Ranger, said in a statement. “The areas that remain under closure orders are not safe for people to enter due to unstable tree snags that could fall without warning and injure or kill someone, or they are close to the fire perimeter which remains hot in some areas. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation while we work to mitigate these hazards over the next several weeks and months.”

Areas that remain closed include Basalt Mountain, High Park and portions of Bower’s Gulch, Mill Creek, North Fork Cattle Creek, Thompson Creek, Yeoman Creek and Iola Creek.

The roads and trails that will remain closed until future notice are Basalt Mountain Road and Cattle Creek Road, trail 1909 west of Toner Reservoir at Taylor Creek Pass, Basalt Mountain Trail 1911, Mill Creek Trail, Ditch and Upper Ditch Trails, Blue Creek Flats Trail and portions of the Lone Pine Trail.

“The White River National Forest will continue to assess the safety of the closed areas outside of the fire perimeter, with potential to open these areas in the coming weeks,” the Forest Service said in a statement. “The Forest will assess the closure area inside of the fire perimeter next spring and will determine the safety for potential re-opening during summer 2019.”

FLOOD ASSESSMENTS

While the fire risk eases, the flood risk becomes a prime concern. The Natural Resources Conservation Service will conduct flood assessments in the affected area beginning Aug. 13.

“The assessments will help determine potential problem areas and recommend mitigation actions,” the agency said in a statement.

Residents and business owners in Basalt and El Jebel should complete a form at http://bit.ly/LakeChristineAssessments.

Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife submitted a sponsorship agreement with the conservation service to request assistance for flood assessment and mitigation through the agency’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program. The sponsorship will provide financial and technical assistance in reducing damage and impacts from flooding due to the fire.

Eagle County and the town of Basalt are partners with parks and wildlife and the conservation service in the project.

scondon@aspentimes.com