Gas can found at site of Lincoln Creek fire on Independence Pass; crews kept it to less than an acre
A fire about five miles up Lincoln Creek Road on Independence Pass burned about three-quarters of an acre Monday, possibly from an illegal campfire that wasn’t extinguished, an Aspen Fire Department official said.
Early radio reports indicated a gas can was found at the scene, though Aspen Fire Chief Rick Balentine said he did not see it when he responded to the fire. He referred all questions about the gas can and the fire investigation to a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer who did not return a phone message seeking comment.
“I was told a gas can was found in the area,” Balentine said. “How it relates to what happened I can’t tell you. (The Forest Service) did take some stuff away (from the scene).”
The location of the blaze was just beyond the New York Creek Trailhead, he said. Pitkin County emergency dispatchers received a call about the fire from someone in the area just before 8:30 a.m. and alerted Aspen Fire Department officials.
Balentine said his crews were the first on-scene and saw the fire burning up a hillside when they arrived. It appeared someone had set up a campfire ring and neglected to put the fire out, he said.
Balentine called in a Forest Service firefighting crew from Rifle, as well as a Forest Service helicopter that dumped water on the blaze.
“The helicopter did bucket drops and was a big help,” he said.
Aspen Fire crews cleared the scene about 12:45 p.m. and left Forest Service crews to finish putting out the fire, Balentine said.
Pitkin County is currently under Stage 1 fire restrictions, which means campfires are only allowed in metal fire rings in developed campgrounds. Area fire officials, however, are scheduled to hold a conference call Tuesday to talk about increasing the restrictions amid continuing hot and dry conditions on Colorado’s Western Slope, he said.
“The point is it’s really dry out there and people need to be really careful,” Balentine said.
State transportation officials closed Interstate 70 for the second time in recent days Monday to battle another fire that broke out in Glenwood Canyon between Glenwood Springs and Dotsero. Firefighters had to extinguish a similar fire last week along I-70 that forced the closure of the road.