Our View: Gypsum wildfire a stark reminder of the need to prepare (editorial)
Hazy skies have become an unwelcome fixture in the Vail Valley, thanks in large part to the Lake Christine fire near Basalt. But our smoke source in the western valley was much closer to home the evening of Sunday, July 22.
That night, a pair of lightning strikes started a small-ish, but scary, fire just north of Gypsum.
That fire, called the Trail Gulch fire, belched smoke into town for some time on Sunday. Wildland fire crews were quickly on the scene, although the fire sparked too late in the day to call in aerial tankers.
Mop-up work continued on Monday, July 23, with tanker drops and ground crews finally getting a handle on the fire in the sagebrush and pinon terrain.
The fire never really threatened any structures, but the smoke and visible flames so close to town set nerves on edge. Social media crackled with worries about the fire’s location, whether the fire might have sparked at the nearby Gypsum Shooting Sports Park — it didn’t; the range is closed and unused at the moment — and whether evacuation orders might be imminent.
That tension led at least one Gypsum resident to finally follow the advice of fire professionals. While watching the fire — or, mostly, the smoke from it — one family boxed up family photos and important documents, made sure there was enough food to feed the pets for a couple of days and packed a few days’ worth of clothing, daily medications and other essentials.
All of that stuff is ready to throw into the family cars at a moment’s notice.
Experts advise everyone living in wildfire country — just about all of us — to have similar get-out plans.
Experts also remind us to create defensible space around our homes. That means cutting back vegetation, keeping gutters clear and other steps to make it more difficult for fire to take your home.
All of that information and more is part of the “Ready, Set, Go” program. There’s an Eagle County version of that program online.
Over the years, Eagle County has been tremendously fortunate when it comes to wildfire. That’s doubly true when it comes to property loss.
The Lake Christine fire is the biggest wildfire the county has seen in recent memory, and it has threatened hundreds of homes in the Roaring Fork Valley, as well as electric service to much of that valley.
Even with that, just three homes have been lost to the fire. Much of that is due to the tremendous efforts of firefighters. But some is due to homeowners creating defensible space around their homes.
In Summit County, June’s Buffalo Mountain fire prompted the evacuation of 1,400 homes. None of them were lost, due again to great work by firefighters, but also because homeowners worked to their homes from fire.
In this dry, smoky summer, we all need get-out kits at the ready. And if you haven’t done at least some fire mitigation work around your home, then there’s no time like the present.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.