Cause of Red Table Fire cannot be determined | VailDaily.com

Cause of Red Table Fire cannot be determined

Air tankers battle the Red Table Fire south of Eagle on July 13. The agressive aerial response to the fire is credited with helping to contain the blaze to just 26 acres. However, the aerial attack also masked the point of origin for the fire, which means U.S. Forest Service investigators cannot cite a definitive cause of the fire.

EAGLE — The cause of the Red Table Fire near Sylvan Lake cannot be definitively determined, according to acting Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Aaron Mayville.

The Red Table Fire consumed 26 acres after it was first reported July 13. The blaze was fully contained five days later after response from local, state and national resources.

Mayville said following the blaze, fire investigators examined the scene but could not determine the exact point of origin. He noted the site was obliterated during the aggressive response to the fire, which included aerial assault teams hitting the blaze within a couple of hours of the first sighting.

"There were signs that it did smolder for awhile before it started up July 13," said Mayville.

As part of their investigation, the Forest Service team examined lightning strike data in the area and found one strike was recorded, one half mile away and 11 days prior to the fire being reported.

"It's on the fringe of it being possible that it was started by that lightning strike," said Mayville. "There is also a known dispersed campsite near where it started." Without concrete evidence of origin, investigators can't state the fire cause. But Mayville did note there is one activity that definitely did not light the fire — nearby logging operations.

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"The point of origin was nowhere near where the logging operations are," he said.

Nimble crew

In the aftermath of the Red Table Fire, the nimble response from firefighting crews was noted by everyone from locals to Forest Service officials.

"The response was excellent and it was very fast," said Mayville. "It was a nimble response, that's the reason we were able to contain it to just 26 acres."

The Red Table Fire could have been a much larger blaze, Mayville said, noting it was sparked in "problematic" fuel. But because of its proximity to a popular public site — Sylvan Lake State Park — and to a major transmission line, people who were responsible for allocating resources to the blaze immediately recognized a need for an aggressive response.

"It also just happed to be a relatively slow fire situation on the Western Slope at the time," Mayville said.

Mayville again praised the cooperative response to the fire from numerous agencies including the Forest Service, Eagle County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Eagle and Gypsum fire districts and the Salvation Army.

"The troops all rallied and helped out. It was a job well done," said Mayville.