After growing to nearly 7,000 acres and torching three homes, the Lake Christine Fire has settled down enough to allow all residents back into their homes — though not without vigilance.
Richard Miller, 23, and Allison Marcus, 22, apparently ignited the blaze by firing off tracer rounds at the Basalt State Wildlife Area shooting range on July 3. The pair were issued summonses for misdemeanor arson, subsequently upgraded to felony status.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife later came under fire for keeping the range open — despite concerns from private citizens, municipal leaders and even within the agency — and has since closed all such facilities it manages in Northwest Colorado.
Meanwhile, the fire spread west, threatening neighborhoods above Two Rivers Road. The next day, it began to expand east towards the Frying Pan, as well. That night, another run to the west brought the fire within spitting distance of the El Jebel Trailer park and parts of Missouri Heights.
“This is the biggest fire the Valley has seen since Coal Seam and Storm King,” Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson said on July 4. “We tried our best to catch this thing and unfortunately… we didn’t stand a chance.”
The fire has also prompted as forest closures on Basalt Mountain and Red Tables, and will likely take days to snuff entirely.
Under the direction of a Type 2 Incident Management Team, crews have been able to build fire breaks along the fire’s eastern and southern flanks, keeping it away from homes as it continues to burn slowly north on lands unoccupied save for a few cabins.
A Type 3 Team took over on July 16, and the operations center has been moved back to the El Jebel Fire Station.
Smoke from the fire has prompted a public health warning, with everyone encouraged to limit outdoor activity wherever visibility is less than five miles, particularly those with heart disease or respiratory illness, the very young and the elderly. Flood warnings have also been issued around the burn areas, but risks of power outage have reportedly passed.
It remains illegal to fly a drone over the area. Residents are encouraged to take pre-evacuation precautions, and — a few errant raindrops notwithstanding — fire danger remains critically high, with stage two fire restrictions in place.
Last updated at 9 a.m. July 17.