At approximately 3:45 p.m. on August 28, an ominous column of grey smoke appeared over Crown Mountain Park. Crews from Roaring Fork Fire Rescue arrived on scene within minutes and put out the fire. There were no injuries or loss of property.
The wildland fire was approximated to be 1/4 - 1/2 acre in size, and was focused around a combustible pile of brush at the base of power line pylon. The fire then spread to nearby grass. It ignited just north of the Crown Mountain BMX park, on the north face of the old NFS building. Concerned residents gathered in a nearby safe location to watch the firemen go to work dragging hoses and dousing the flames.
The large water tanker fire apparatus, Tender 42, of Basalt Fire Rescue was the first truck on scene. Firefighters, dressed in the tell tale uniform of wildland firefighters – long sleeve yellow shirts and light hard hats – commenced the initial attack. The aggressive attack was successful, and it took about 30 minutes for RFFR to completely contain the fire.
Three additional fire engines arrived on the scene quickly, and the total crew equaled eight men. Personnel from Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and Town of Basalt Public Works were also on-scene.
A press release from RFFR stated, “The fire was burning in dry seasonal grasses on a flat area and on a west facing slope that was largely sage and grasses.” The fires were stoked by light westerly winds.
Staff members of Crown Mountain Park were the first on scene and reported the fire. Rebecca Wagner, director and Nate Grinzinger, park recreation manager, both work from an office nearby the fire’s origin.
“We heard a big pop and the power cut out,” said Grinzinger. They smelled smoke and rushed over to find the fire was well underway. “The flames were about 15 feet high.” Wagner immediately called 9-1-1.
Originally, the fire was thought to have been sparked by a downed power line. However, Pete Bradshaw, deputy chief of administration, debunked that hypothesis after an investigation. “There was no power line down,” said Bradshaw. “We had Holy Cross come out and check it. There was nothing suspicious.”
Bradshaw suggested that it could have been the electrocution of a small animal that caused the blaze. A bird or rodent could have gotten torched and fallen into the dry brush below the line, thus igniting the fire.
Crews remained on scene until 5:24 p.m. completing mop-up operations.
The wildfire incident was the second trip RFFR made to Crown Mountain Park on that day. Earlier in the day firefighters responded to a call of an injury in the park. A woman who had been hiking along the river trail shattered her ankle and required an evacuation. Using rope anchors and a rescue litter the fire fighters were able to carry the woman up a steep hill and transport her to medical services.
“These are the kinda’ guys you want around when there is trouble,” said Grinzinger. “It’s great to have such a strong team to support the community.”
RFFR is the product of a merger between two separate fire and EMS departments, Basalt Fire Rescue and Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District. RFFR provides 24-hour emergency response to a wide range of critical situations, and is led by Chief Scott Thompson.