Crews quash two fires in midvalley

by Chad Abraham, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

A 5- to 6-acre wildfire got within 50 feet of a house in Snowmass Canyon on Sunday before firefighters stopped its progress with the help of a backhoe from a construction company.

The blaze on private property on Lower River Road was started by a caretaker burning a small debris pile, wrote Jesse Steindler, patrol director at the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, in a press release.

A total of 30 personnel and seven engines from the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department, Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District and the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District responded around 1 p.m., said Aspen Fire Chief Rick Balentine.

Because the fire had leapt into cottonwood trees adjacent to the Roaring Fork River, firefighters borrowed a backhoe from Stutzman-Gerbaz Construction. A number of aflame trees were knocked down “so we could get to the fire,” Balentine said. “We really appreciated that.”

Crews on Sunday evening were mopping up hot spots.

Basalt firefighters around 4 p.m. responded to another fire Sunday near Highway 82 and the Roaring Fork Club. The fire was burning in two trees; Steindler did not know the cause of that blaze.

The public is urged to use extreme caution when conducting controlled burns at this time of the year, the release says.

“Abrupt changes in weather and wind direction, combined with an abundance of dry fuels, are a constant hazard in any burn operation,” Steindler wrote. “Please, before even considering a project that entails fire, contact your local fire agency for advice.”