Smoke from Lost Solar Fire billows into western Eagle County | VailDaily.com

Smoke from Lost Solar Fire billows into western Eagle County

GYPSUM — A huge plume of smoke billowing north of Interstate 70 in western Eagle County, combined with the National Weather Service Red Flag warning for western Colorado, alarmed residents Tuesday afternoon.

But while the smoke appeared to be coming from the Colorado River Road area, it was actually generated from the Lost Solar fire located on the western boundary of the Flat Tops Wilderness. That fire has been burning for nearly a month and has consumed approximately 1,000 acres in a remote part of the wilderness. Tuesday's high winds kicked up the blaze and spread out the smoke.

According to Kate Jerman, spokesperson for the White River National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service has been managing the Lost Solar fire with a "confine and contain" strategy.

"The fire has actually provided some good resource benefits," said Jerman, noting the blaze has consumed deadfall and provided green growth areas for big game animals.

However, with this week's high winds, the fire activity picked up Tuesday and Curtis Keetch, Rio Blanco district ranger, surveyed the blaze from the air to determine if there would be any changes in the fire management.

"It is intimidating to see all the smoke," said Keetch,"but right now the fire is doing exactly what we want it to do."

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Keetch said fire modeling for the Lost Solar fire actually predicted it would blow up a couple of weeks ago, but the blaze has just continued to burn through thick fuel areas in a remote part of the wilderness. Keetch said the blaze remains within the area the Forest Service has designated.

Jerman noted with the wind impacts, the Forest Service plans a public safety closure in the Lost Solar fire area. That action will primarily impact big game hunters and the black powder season begins this week.