Crews reign in New Castle Fire |

Crews reign in New Castle Fire

John Gardner
Vail CO, Colorado
Kara K. Pearson/Special to the DailyDave Sheldon, right, and Joy Sather, both with Alpine Hotshots, wait for instructions from their squad leader Drew Page Thursday afternoon above Canyon Creek Road near New Castle.

CANYON CREEK ” A deserted home at 1510 Canyon Creek Road nestled beside Canyon Creek was calm Thursday afternoon. A ring from the doorbell yielded no answer. No vehicle was present, the residents gone, most likely evacuated because of the New Castle Fire that has burned an estimated 1,240 acres ” less than the 1,800 acres previously estimated ” since lightning sparked the fire Sunday night.

But many of those displaced by the fire, residents of 60 of the 90 homes under mandatory evacuation, were able to return home Thursday evening. The Canyon Creek Estates evacuation was lifted at 5 p.m. The evacuation of the Canyon Creek drainage homes is still in effect.

Fire crews battling the New Castle Fire haven’t lost any lives and no homes or structures have been touched by the flames.

The fire is now reported as 90 percent contained, said David Boyd, fire information officer for the Bureau of Land Management.

“(Fire crews) made a lot of progress today,” Boyd said. “There is still line to build and there will still be activity in the days to come.”

Fire crews aren’t out of the woods yet. With the 90 percent containment, it’s important to remember the fire isn’t completely out, Boyd said. And it could flare up again quickly if the conditions are right.

“That is less likely to happen,” Boyd said. “But with fires in this area, anything can happen.”

Thursday, clouds drifted in overhead while crews from the Alpine Hot Shots of the Rocky Mountain National Park, Basalt and Gypsum fire departments secured the fire line along the west side of Canyon Creek Road.

Fresh-chopped firewood stacked near the front porch of the house at 1510 remained untouched and ready to burn in a stove or fireplace. The two-lane road divides the canyon where on one side the hillside looks like a war zone and the other looks like a dream. Fire crews executed a “burnout” on the west hillside, snuffing the wildfire and saving homes in that area, late Wednesday night.

On the shoulder of the road a white piece of poster board read, in fiery red ink, “Thanks, to all of you for working so hard, from all of us.”

Fire crews relentlessly worked to put out continuing hot spots along the road in the neighborhood.

Bill Kight, fire spokesman for the White River National Forest, said this year’s infestation of linden looper caterpillars, which inhabit and feed on oak brush, may have contributed to the intensity of the fire by creating more fuels.

Smoke lingered, ash covered the hillside, nothing but charred remains of trees remain as a reminder of what was and what could have been.

What could have been if not for the firefighter’s efforts.

“A bunch of dedicated firefighters started a burnout in extreme conditions and succeeded in keeping the fire from crossing to the other side of the creek,” Kight said.

Burnouts on this sort of terrain are always “risky,” Kight said, due to the constantly changing wind patterns that tend to blow up-slope in the morning and change down-slope in the afternoons.

But this time it was worth the risk, stopping the fire from progressing farther east into developed areas.

“It only takes an unexplained wind and you’ll lose it,” He said. “It could have gone either way, but I think that they (residents) are happy they have a home to come back to.”

Tonight, some residents will sleep comfortably while fire crews continue to do what they do.

Put out fires.

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