Farmer’s Korner wildfire almost contained
summit daily news
FARMER’S KORNER ” A blanket of smoke hung over Farmer’s Korner Tuesday as wildfire crews doused hot spots and fell dead trees inside the charred firelines behind Summit High School.
Local fire officials and the U.S. Forest Service are still investigating the cause of the blaze.
The Ophir Mountain fire, which scorched 12 acres and caused the evacuation of dozens of Farmer’s Korner residents Monday afternoon, was expected to be fully contained sometime today, according to Lt. Mike Roll with the Red, White and Blue Fire Department.
Containment dropped from 70 to 80 percent Monday night to about 50 percent just before 5 p.m. Tuesday. The reduction in original estimates were based on the establishment of a wet fireline, where crews sprayed water around the outside of the area to make sure no new vegetation ignited.
For safety precautions, crews will dig a miniature trench around the fire before they call the blaze fully contained, Roll said.
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A group of about 25 firefighters slept in wildland trucks near the fire scene Monday night to make sure the fire didn’t rekindle. There were no reports of any activity throughout the night, although there was a small flare-up Tuesday morning, said Bill Kight, fire information officer for the U.S. Forest Service.
“About four or five trees went up at once,” Kight said, adding that small eruptions are not out of the ordinary.
The small flames were quickly snuffed and the fire did not spread.
Fire management officer Phil Bowden arrived at the fire Tuesday morning from Eagle to supervise a saw squad inside the firelines.
“It’s not too bad,” Bowden said of the atmosphere inside the zone. “The big hazards are the trees right now.”
Bowden’s team spent the day cutting down burnt trees that had the potential to come crashing down if left unattended. The crew had to be careful that branches didn’t drop into hot areas on the ground and catch fire.
On Alpensee Road above the high school, a thick layer of red dust fleeced a pile of firewood next to one of the houses ” a sign of a slurry bomber drop that’s credited with saving at least one home.
Kight commended the homeowners for creating defensible space around their home, which helped to hold flames back from the structure.
“If the trees up to the house had been as thick as they are (in the fire area), I would not have given this house any chance,” he said. “This should be a wake-up call for anyone who has a home in the wildland interface.”
Firefighters were able to save all the homes that were threatened by the fire, but Kight stressed the importance of wildfire mitigation, especially in an area so populated by pine beetle kill.
The territory that caught fire Monday had already been identified by the Forest Service as one that needed pine beetle mitigation, Kight said.
In fact, county managers and the district ranger were having a meeting about mitigation in the area when the fire broke out, he said.
Several charred trees are marked with blue paint throughout the fire zone indicating some control work may have been planned in the area, although a tight budget makes it tough for the Forest Service to treat everywhere it would like to, Kight said.
“This beetle kill epidemic is of historic proportions,” Kight said.
“Mother Nature has her way and she has her last say. All we can do is help to mitigate.”
Kight said Monday’s blaze absolutely could have been worse with had the conditions been slightly different.
“If we’d had a huge wind come through here, I wouldn’t even want to predict how big the fire could have been,” he said.
The majority of the 50 or so firefighters working Tuesday were from the U.S. Forest Service and the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit, although about half-dozen Red, White and Blue firefighters and five Lake Dillon Fire Authority firefighters.
One or two engines patrolled the area again overnight Tuesday and full crews will be back on-scene today at 7 a.m.
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