Oak Meadows fire settles down, crews on guard for flare-ups | CraigDailyPress.com

Oak Meadows fire settles down, crews on guard for flare-ups

John Stroud Glenwood Springs Post Independent

The view from an adjacent ridge of the fire that broke out near the Oak Meadows subdivision on Friday evening.

Extra firefighting resources are on standby, but for now the Oak Meadows fire that broke out late Friday afternoon south of Glenwood Springs has settled down and is not threatening any structures in the area, according to Garfield County fire officials.

"It's been calm all morning, but the winds are starting to pick up so we are watching that," Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson said. "We had really good success last night getting a wet line around the fire area."

A lower-level Type 3 incident command team through the Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management was to arrive on scene this afternoon. Type 3 indicates a lesser incident complexity compared to a Type 1 or 2 team, Tillotson said.

"This incident is not that complex, but it could become that way depending on the conditions" Tillotson said.

The fire started around 4:30 or 5 p.m. Friday behind a residence at the upper end of Aspen Way on the far south end of the Oak Meadows subdivision off Four Mile Road, on the way to Sunlight Mountain Resort.

A cause for the fire has not been determined, but investigators were looking into whether an electrical transformer may have started the fire.

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The fire spread quickly and burned between 40 and 80 acres before fire crews were able to get things in hand. A Heyl Construction crew that was working nearby also jumped on the fire quickly before it spread into nearby homes.

The fire prompted some initial evacuations in the area, but residents have since been allowed back home.

"We have airplanes on standby, and we expect to get a Type 1 helicopter here soon to do some spot drops of water," Garfield County Sheriff's Office spokesman Walt Stowe said. "Right now, we are using the resources we have from Aspen and Basalt, and from Garfield County agencies."

"No structures have been lost at this time; however the fire advanced to within a few hundred yards of some cabins and buildings in the area," Stowe said in a midday press release Saturday. "The goals for today’s crews are to protect structures, minimize spread of the fire, and protect the safety of the residents.

No evacuations are planned at this time, but neighborhood residents are cautioned to be prepared, as an evacuation could occur at any time should fire conditions change, he said.

Plans are to transfer fire operations to a Type 3 Incident Management Team this afternoon. Many local resources will continue to be used, including the addition of Garfield County Road and Bridge and a crew from Juniper Valley Firefighters, before and after the transfer.

As air drops are being conducted, the power is shut off for the south Oak Meadows area. Stowe also reminds the public that drones are not allowed to fly over the area, or air attacks on the fire will have to be suspended.

"While we do have a red flag warning with high temperatures and low humidity, we are not expecting a lot of high winds, which is good," Stowe said.

In addition to water drops, extra ground crews and equipment have been brought in to relieve and free up local resources.

"These crews will be used, as necessary, with the ultimate goal of containment and mop up of hot spots within the fire area," Stowe said in the Saturday release. "Residents should plan on operations continuing for three days or more, depending on weather conditions and availability of resources."

Also today, a base camp was set up at the Sopris Elementary School. Firefighters will be camping there throughout the incident.

"This may require a change in your normal routine. If you don’t need to be in this area we ask that you avoid it for the duration of the fire," Stowe said in the release.