Fire breaks out near Keystone |

Fire breaks out near Keystone

Caddie Nath
Summit Daily News
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

KEYSTONE, Colorado – A wildfire that broke out Thursday afternoon at the site of a logging operation at Keystone Gulch continues to burn today just west of the resort.

At press time, the blaze had consumed an estimated 20 acres to the west of Keystone Resort and firefighters were working to protect nearby houses from the base of the fire as it continued east. They hoped to have the flames 15 percent contained by midnight, but didn’t have any containment as of Thursday night, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue deputy chief Jeff Berino said.

Approximately 20 people were evacuated from the area to the nearby Keystone Lodge when flames were spotted dangerously close to four residential homes.

At press time, no structures had been damaged and emergency response teams had evacuated residents back to their houses by 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

There were no injuries as a result of the fire as of Thursday night.

Fire officials said they expect full containment to take three to four days, adding that people in the Keystone area would likely continue to see smoke into the weekend.

The fire will be turned over to Type 3 federal fire rescue teams this morning, he said.

“They’ve got more resources available to them and can ramp up as is necessary try to put this fire out as quickly as possible,” Lake Dillon Fire Rescue spokesman Steve Lipsher said.

At 8 p.m. Thursday, firefighters were preparing to begin overnight operations, trying to keep the fire under control, but not actively fighting it for safety reasons. Winds died down as the sun set and the humidity began to rise, making the blaze less aggressive.

“The goal is to get a 1,000-gallon bucket and kind of wash the fire off the hillside,” Berino said. “This is going to be protected from the morning sun, so it’s probably not going to do much until 10 or 11 (Friday) morning, but then we do anticipate a run up the hill (toward Keystone Resort).”

Though the cause is still unclear, Berino said it might have been related to logging work going on in the area and that there were unconfirmed reports of a tree falling on a power line. Berino said there did not appear to be any malicious activity related to the start of the fire.

The fire broke out at approximately 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Within minutes the blaze had consumed an estimated 2 acres not far from condos and residential homes in the Gulch.

“We were very lucky this afternoon that we did not lose structures,” Berino said Thursday night.

Through Thursday afternoon and evening, firefighters from all neighboring districts, including Vail continued to battle the blaze, which spread quickly toward Keystone Resort due to easterly winds with gusts upwards of 40 miles per hour.

At press time the fire was still approximately a half-mile from the resort boundaries. Though the ski area was not at risk, the resort did gear up snow-making equipment, which will be used to douse the blaze if it gets close.

“We can dump a lot of water on it very quickly,” Keystone Resort spokesman Ryan Whaley said. “It’s not threatening the resort at this time, but if it does we’re ready to rock.”

The break in trees on groomed runs also act as natural barriers to wildfires.

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