Shortly after the Lake Christine Fire ignited July 3, two dispatchers in the Aspen-Pitkin County communications center were inundated in 30 minutes with more than twice the number of 911 calls that are usually received in a single summer day.
The county singled out the behind-the-scenes efforts by those dispatchers and the entire call center in a press release Thursday.
Around 6 p.m. that day, call volume "quickly soared to 87 emergency calls and 25 non-emergency calls in the first 30 minutes," the release says. "The dispatchers answered every call and, in between, got fire trucks rolling and police responding immediately."
Some 2,100 people were evacuated as the fire, which destroyed three homes and had consumed nearly 7,000 acres as of Thursday, threatened to overtake Missouri Heights, El Jebel and Basalt.
"For perspective, during the entire month of June, there were an average of 38 emergency calls in an entire day …," the release says.
Emergency dispatch director Brett Loeb said the fire was a long-dreaded scenario.
"We've been understaffed for some time [because of] the complexity and the stress of this career," he said in the release. "Also, the normalcy and relative peacefulness of our valley doesn't allow for much experience with such high-volume situations, so it's hard to predict how we would perform."
From midnight to midnight on July 4, the center received 129 emergency calls and nearly 700 non-emergency calls.
"These guys aced it all week by working extra hours and performing high-quality work just like they do every day, only at a slightly higher intensity level," Loeb said. "We didn't miss a beat."
Dispatchers were also busy sending out a constant stream of updates through the Pitkin Alert system. Over 2,200 people have signed up for the alerts since the fire.