Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Lake Christine Fire

I was driving my Tesla Limo for the last ride of the day July 3rd. My riders were two pilots from the private Airport in Aspen and they were booked into the Element Hotel at Willits just the other side of highway 82 from Basalt. As we came out of Snowmass Canyon directly in front of us was a column of smoke... and as we got closer flames... which I estimated at 90' high. My first comment "This isn't good." My second comment "If they don't get a big slurry bomber on that right now......" Having seen the effect of a slurry bomber on the 2002 Panorama Fire by my place in Missouri Heights I knew just how effective they could be... and that's what I wanted to see... a big beautiful slurry bomber out of the Grand Junction airport ..."

 Photo coming into Basalt July 3, 2018

At the Element Hotel, as ash was falling on the Tesla, the pilots decided they might want to change their hotel plans. I drove them to the Westin in Snowmass and by the time I turned the car back towards Missouri Heights an hour later the beast had taken hold....

Photo at the Basalt stoplight.
No Slurry bombers... but some helicopters with "bambi buckets" which carry about 40 gallons dipped out of the Roaring Fork River and the Kodiak Ski Lake behind the Tree Farm at Willits.
See that tiny dot? That's a helicopter and below it is a water bucket. 
 That night I didn't get much sleep as I watched the red glow get bigger from my deck....

The week before driving into El Jebel looked like this:
 On the morning of July 4th it was a different story:

July 4 is a big day for driving and I also like our little parade in Aspen. I packed up the dogs- took them to doggie daycare and spent a little time at the parade.

I kept looking at my phone - twitter and FB- looking for fire updates.  I was pretty much glued to the Lake Christine Google Fire Map.

The photos were not looking good and it certainly wasn't getting any smaller.  #lakechristinefire

I left the parade- picked up the dogs- when back down valley to get my old BMW "bugout" car which I keep packed and ready to go in case of emergency.  The fire was still in back of Basalt but hadn't jumped the ridge to El Jebel or started up Basalt Mountain. It looked like it might be going in the opposite direction up the Frying Pan....

View from my deck July 4 afternoon. 

I checked my roof sprinklers

Kept looking at the fire....

and the water in the cistern.

Watched the fire....

 Tried to sleep.....

Things seemed ok "ish" until the early hours of July 5.

You've probably seen the photos- the fire jumped the ridge into El Jebel and ate the side of a mountain in about 60 seconds flat... that's when the evacuation orders came for Missouri Heights. The truly spectacular photos are of the hill behind Whole Foods. Here's the link to Wildfire Today...

 As I drove past El Jebel with the dogs in the "bug out bimmer" I saw thousands of spot fires all over the hill.  Every time you thought you were out of the fire zone there would be another single spiraling tower of flame shooting out from the middle of the mountain side as if there were pipes down to hell playing organ music for the devil. One small burst of wind had almost eaten El Jebel and another burst of wind could eat whatever it wanted... whenever it wanted....

"Snow" is what I thought.... "It's gonna take snow to stop this monster."

Later that morning with my friend Karen's help I went back to the Missouri Heights place to rescue the Tesla (I can only drive one car at a time... Elon should work on that autopilot thing...)

We passed hills smoking with spot fires.
and checkpoint after checkpoint
and rescued the Tesla... (yeah!)

and I started doing a lot of round trips to Denver because the commercial flights in and out of Aspen were limited due to wildfire restrictions.... 

Coming home from another DIA trip the rain at the top of Independence was welcome but the glow from the Lake Christine Fire told me another story.  

I was able to return home for brief visits Saturday, Sunday and Monday... but as always keeping a wary eye out to Basalt Mountain and watching the leaves on the trees for any breath of wind....

I ate breakfast at Home Team at the Inn at Aspen a couple of days ago. They've just installed a new Tesla supercharging station and with all the trips to Denver I'm trying to keep the batteries topped up... My waiter and I shared evacuation stories and then he showed me a picture of his home in El Jebel. His home had been saved... 10 feet from his front door the ground was black.... that's how close it came to burning his home. Gracias a Dios.

I'm back at the Ranch and the Lake Christine Fire still burns on Basalt Mountain. There are 30 homes still under mandatory evacuation and we all wait and watch... praying for rain ... and hoping for no wind .... and no lightning.... 

The Fire map is steady at about 6000 acres but we know at any moment it could turn..... for photos and videos of the Lake Christine Fire click on The Aspen Times slideshow (with some spectacular photos from Peter McBride- one of our many local NatGeo photographers) and 9 News video 9 News has a lot of video you just have to get past the ads....

It ain't over till it's over. Basalt Mountain is still smoking.

Thanks to all my friends who have helped me with support- in words and deed.

Thanks to the firefighters, hot shots, helicopter and bomber pilots who worked so hard and are still working to keep lives and property safe from the flames.

Thanks to this little tight knit community... we are all in this together... and if you ever doubt that look back on the 4th of July 2018.

How you can help:

Lake Christine Fire: Wildland Firefighter Foundation from Outside Adventure Media on Vimeo.

Go Fund Me for those who lost homes:

Bill and Andee




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