Shortly after the sheriff issued a precautionary fire ban for Pitkin County Wednesday, a small wildfire broke out outside of Aspen.
Firefighters contained the blaze in about 30 minutes after it was reported.
The fire burned about a half-acre of brush and small trees — and reached within yards of a home on Warren Creek Lane — before a team of about 20 first responders put it out.
It burned about 2.5 miles from Aspen toward Independence Pass, in a residential neighborhood just off of Highway 82.
The Aspen Volunteer Fire Department sent three trucks to the scene, with the support of a fourth from Snowmass.
Flames had risen 20 feet high when firefighters arrived.
“Fortunately we got quick containment on it,” said Deputy Aspen Fire Chief Rick Balentine. “We got lucky.”
Balentine said the cause of the blaze was unclear. Fire Marshal Ed Van Walraven was at the site Wednesday evening investigating the cause.
Earlier in the afternoon, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo announced an open fire ban and restrictions, due to the unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of moisture in the valley.
“The moisture content of trees, grass and brush is significantly low and at risk of a devastating fire,” read the sheriff’s declaration.
The ban went into effect at midnight and will be enforced until further notice.
A “red flag” warning from the National Weather Service was already in effect for wildfires in and around Pitkin County, due to the combination of dry and windy conditions.
The burn ban prohibits building or maintaining open fires, including campfires not in a permanent fire ring, along with using fireworks or explosives, smoking in uncleared areas, operating certain chainsaws, and welding outdoors with an open flame. It also restricts charcoal grilling to designated grilling areas.
Violating the ban is a class 2 petty offense under state law. The ban does not apply to federal lands within the county, but the U.S. Forest Service enacted a fire ban on all of its Colorado lands last week.
The ban exempts the burning of ditches that are surrounded by irrigated farmland. All previously issued open ditch-burning permits, however, have been suspended until restrictions are lifted.
Fire chiefs from Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt and Carbondale supported the ban.
Balentine said that Wednesday’s fire should serve as a warning for the dangerously dry conditions in the Aspen area.
“Anything that catches on fire is going to go up quickly,” he said. “It is extremely dry right now.”