Treasure Fire Update

Treasure Fire Now 100% Contained, What’s Next?

July 2 – The Treasure Fire is now at 100% containment and crews and operations are now in a down-sizing phase. This week, there will be 40 firefighters,  plus support working on the fire. The plan is to have these two crews continue to monitor the sitiation and contend with any “hot-spots” which may flair up.  Beginning next week, the responsibility for the fire returns to local US Forest Service firefighters.

For local residents the main concern is whether or not the fire is secure. The following is an article provided by Public Information Officer Sarah Gallup:

Is the Fire Secure?

Fires that have unexpectedly rekindled have been in the news distressingly often.    Where is the certainty the Treasure Fire won’t?

Consider the fire’s condition already.  Today a few wisps of smoke show here and there in the interior, and no flame.  In the last two days, as crews continue to search and systematically search again for new spot fires outside the fireline, they haven’t found any.  Yet whole crews will work on those few hot areas for several days.

Look at the numbers.  Fire is a natural process and affected by weather so there is no absolute certainty.  Nationwide, the U.S. averages about 75,000 wildland fires a year.  Any fire, and not just the big ones, can rekindle.  Yet almost none do.

A third source of reassurance are the built-in protections from uncertainty.  Even when fire managers feel confident the fire is contained, firefighters will hike in to the fire every day to check it yet again.   After that and continuing for weeks, the checks will be every couple days.  The Treasure fire has less heat every day.  But even long after no heat is apparent, the fire will be watched.

Who Decides When to Scale Back Staffing on a Fire?

When needed, wildland firefighting organizations can scale up impressively quickly.  There were nearly a thousand firefighters in place, organized, and working on the Waldo Canyon within 48 hours.  But who decides when the firefighters should leave, and on what basis?

Once committed, crews, fire engines and other staff stay at a fire until the Incident Commander releases them.  Even if there is a national shortage of firefighting resources, it doesn’t make sense to strip one fire of staffing when the fire is inadequately controlled only to have the fire revive.  The other reason firefighters “belong” to a fire until released is that it would be nearly impossible to choose sensible strategies if managers might unexpectedly lose their crews.

The fire’s managers hold on to “their” firefighters until the fire is secured.  (Aircraft are allocated a little differently, in part because they can move between fires so quickly.)  Once it IS safe and prudent to reduce staffing for a fire, tying up and paying firefighters to stay longer doesn’t make sense. 

For the Treasure Fire that time has come.  The fire is 100% contained.  The fire’s spread has been stopped and the fire’s managers expect no further spread under foreseeable conditions.  They are therefore comfortable releasing some but not all of the fire’s crews now.  One that was released on Sunday morning is already en route to a new and high-priority fire in Wyoming.

Overall strategy and commensurate staffing are a core task for the Incident Commander, in consultation with the representative of the agency that has hired the Incident Commander, and of top field supervisors for the fire.  For the Treasure Fire, that means Incident Commander Chris Naccarato talks with District Ranger Jon Morrissey and Operations Chief Dave Reid about staffing every day.

Treasure Fire Timeline, daily on Leadville Today

June 30 * 8 a.m. – At this morning’s briefing, it was reported that the Treasure Fire is now at 80% containment and with more accurate mapping, the fire was determined to be at 420 acres. Incident Commander Chris Naccarato stated that they hope to have the fire 100 % contained by the end of shift today. In this morning’s video, he explains what the procedures are for crew assignment after it is determined that the fire is 100% contained.

The other change that locals will notice is that the Headquarters for this operation will move up to Colorado Mountain College – Timberline Campus today. For the past week, crews have been using Leadville’s Ice Palace Park as the center of their operations, setting up a tent camp and a feed zone. Starting tonight, crews will be a bit more out of sight up at the college, but that doesn’t mean that they are leaving altogether, just scaling back to adjust to fire conditions.

Also covered at this morning’s briefing was a session regarding high altitude, its effects, and the steps to help prevent altitude sickness while fighting the highest wildfire on record.  This has been a common message from the very beginning of this incident, as emergency responders from as low as 50 feet above sea level, came to Lake County to fight the blaze. Every morning the two most important words – HYDRATE, HYDRATE – were chanted by everyone from the IC, to medical, to safety.

But this morning a more formal discussion which was led by Lake County Emergency Manager Mike McHargue and Leadville Ranger Jon Morrissey, gave firefighters the opportunity to exchange helpful information regarding the high altitude factor. Any time you can you can gather data which can be used in future emergency situations, is a good thing.

Well, that wraps up a week’s coverage of the Treasure Fire – at least in video format. Unless something changes, Leadville Today will fall in step with the other operations and “scale back” its coverage of the fire – at least the daily videos. We are working on an overview, including some interesting “side stories” to go with the Highest, The Steepest and the Biggest (for Lake County since 1974, we think) Wildfire: The Treasure Fire.

Treasure Fire Video Update: June 30 * 8 a.m.  

 Treasure Fire Map: June 30, 2012 * 8 a.m.

June 29 * 8 a.m. Crews fighting the Treasure Fire north of Leadville made some great progress yesterday, putting the  fire at 50% containment. Because the situation has improved and that firefighters do 14 days and then get some R & R, some of the crews that have been working this incident will now be pulled off and eventually move on to fight other fires. Incident Commander Chris Naccarato explains in this morning’s video how they manage the crews.

Also the US Forrest Service District has officially enacted a Stage Two Fire Ban. Leadville District Ranger Jon Morrissey explains what areas that ban covers and what restrictions are now in place.

It was also mentioned at this morning’s briefing how much support the local community has shown for the firefighters. From the great food from our local caterers to the kids’ homemade signs, the crews appreciate all of it!

Treasure Fire Video Update: June 29 * 8 a.m.

Treasure Fire Map – June 29, 2012

June 28 * 8 a.m. This morning’s briefing on The Treasure Fire included a report of yesterday being a “no medical incident” day.

Many of the firefighting crews are experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness, but now at the official day five of the fire, everyone seems to be adjusting to working the highest wildfire ever recorded. There are now five crews working the Treasure Fire, some from as far away as Maryland, many who live at lower elevations.

Yesterday, Leadville saw a few heavy storms roll through town, including some hail. In this video Incident Commander Chris Naccarato explains how crews will use that moisture to their benefit in today’s efforts. There is also an update from Leadville Ranger Jon Morrissey.

Treasure Fire Video Update: June 28 * 8 a.m.

Treasure Fire Map – June 28 * 8 a.m.

June 27 @ 8 a.m. – While the statistical conditions of the Treasure Fire north of Leadville, remain basically the same today in terms of containment (10%) and acres (apprx.320), firefighters are getting a good hard line perimeter in place.

During this morning’s briefing, Incident Commander Chris Naccarato reviewed a lot of safety issues with crews. As the highest wildfire ever recorded, firefighters are feeling the effects of Leadville’s high altitude.   HYDRATE! OVER-HYDRATE! was today’s main message, as well as taking care of each other out in the field.

So how do firefighters stay hydrated in such a remote area? In today’s video, John O’Brien, Crew Boss for the Juniper Valley Crew out of Buena Vista, explains one of the creative ways – involving a trough – officials use to get water to the high mountain terrain, used to fight fires as well as keep crews hydrated.

And while locals were glad to see some light srain showers in town yesterday, it actually interferes with crews’ efforts in the field. O’Brien explains how passing storm cells actually impede on crews’ progress as they fight fire with fire.

A strong reminder to locals about the STAGE TWO FIRE BAN now in effect for Lake County. In today’s video, Lake County’s Emergency Manager, Mike McHargue explains what that means for residents.

Leadville Today would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming positive response for our daily coverage of the Treasure Fire. We’re committed to keeping that up and appreciate all the calls and notes of support for our efforts. We have also received some great photos which we are compiling for an upcoming overview of the Treasure Fire.

Treasure Fire Update: June 27 * 8 a.m.

Treasure Fire Map: June 27 * 8 a.m.

June 26 @ 3 p.m. – The Board of Lake County Commissioners signed Resolution 12-16,  which put into effect immediately a STAGE TWO FIRE BAN in Lake County. These restrictions are the next step up from Governor Hickenlooper’s Banning Open Burning throughout the state issued on June 14, 2012.

While there’s probably not a need to explain why the BOCC choose to pass this resolution, it’s important for local residents to understand what the new rules – laws, really – are with this new Stage Two now in effect.

The following are a couple of helpful links. The first is to the “Classifications” document, which outlines the different levels or stages used during periods of high fire danger. Stage Two is highlighted in yellow and outlines what is allowed/restricted.

The second link will connect you to a copy of Lake County Resolution 12-16, the more formal document which the Commissioners signed this afternoon, enacting the new fire restrictions. It’s lengthy and a bit cumbersome, but does let folks know the why, the what and the who (of enforcement).

Leadville Ranger Jon Morrissey was also in attendance at the meeting and expressed that the US Forrest Service is not far behind with the same restrictions. In addition,  local campground hosts around Turquoise and Twin Lakes have been instructed to pull firewood away from the campgrounds as no open fires are allowed.

June 26 @ 6 a.m. – This morning’s briefing for the Treasure Fire burning in Birdseye Gulch 6 miles north of Leadville brought two main facts:

First, the fire remains at 320 acres and 10 % containment. In the video, Incident Commander Chris Naccarato talks specifically about tactics and resources, referring to a bigger map of the area, which will be helpful for residents to identify where the perimeter of the fire lies.

Second, the Lake County Board of Commissioners is expected to sign a STAGE TWO Fire Ban into effect this afternoon for the county. In the video, Leadville Ranger Jon Morrissey, explains exactly what that means for local residents. Be advised! Later today, we will post the official document, including the specifics of the new restrictions. 

The video update also includes messages from Mike McHargue, Lake County Emergency Manager and Fire Chief Dan Daily. Our local responders are doing a great job, so we hope you take the time to listen to what they have to say to residents – thanks!

With more than 100 firefighters from various operations from across the state and country fighting the fire over unstable terrain, most at over 12,000’, all indications are that things are “under control” and “working their course” which will include smoke and haze, although in the background of this video, there are signs of  Leadville’s famous bright blue skies – at least early in the day!

Leadville Today will continue to provide coverage of the Treasure Fire, keeping locals informed of what’s happening in Leadville, Today!

Treasure Fire Video Update: June 26  * 8 a.m.

June 25 – 5 p.m. – Status UpdateTreasure Fire.

By Lake County Office of Emergency Management
Increased smoke is visible this afternoon due to burning out that is underway.  Crews are lighting very short segments of fireline at a time, in the range of 50’.  After the area’s fire intensity dies down they check carefully for any spot fires before lighting the next short segment.  They have not not experienced difficulty maintaining control of the fire as they burnout  this afternoon. From the burnout there may be dark smoke over the fire and possibly flames visible from a mile or more away.  This is possible not only into this evening but tomorrow as well.   The burnout strengthens firelines and hastens the time when the fire will be fully contained. Until a burned out area has been cool for at least a day, that segment of fireline is not considered contained.   Today’s containment, 10%, and acreage, 320, are unchanged from yesterday evening’s.  The current burnout is interior to the 320-acre perimeter.

June 25 – 9 a.m. The Treasure Fire burning 6 miles north of Leadville in Birdseye Gulch was reported at 10% containment during this morning’s briefing from Incident Commander Chris Naccarato. Headquarters for the operation has now been established at Ice Palace Park in Leadville, where a tent city has been erected for the crew of about 120 firefighters.  

This video contains update: June 25 @ 6 a.m. morning briefing:

Here is a map provided by the Public Information Officer

In other Treasure Fire related news, Lake County Sherriff Rod Fenske reported that the limited access up East 7th Street has been re-established up to the Diamond Shaft. Access to Mosquito Pass is still closed and will remain closed until further notice of the Sherriff. This area is being secured and patrolled by local law enforcement.

Leadville and Lake County residents have enusiastically “stepped up to the plate” when it comes to support for firefighting efforts, reports Lee Kirsch, coordinator for crew service at Ice Palace Park. The Leadville Elks and Lions Clubs have provided cold beverages and other essentials and local resturants have made sure the crews are well fed. Showers are next and portable units and access to local facilities will be in place by the time firefighters come off the lines tonight.

If you’re wondering how to show your support, the Ice Palace Park is now acting as Operation Headquarters and staff there can assist with local efforts and needs.

Leadville Today will continue to provide coverage of the Treasure Fire, keeping the public informed on this Lake County Emergency.

June 25 – 6 a.m. -Official word from the Lake County Office of Emergency Management:

At the end of the day on Sunday, the Treasure fire is 10% contained.  The current size is 320 acres.  The growth since yesterday of twenty acres is due to the burnout this afternoon.

June 24 – 5:30 p.m. – Public Information Officer for the Treasure Fire Sarah Gallup just reported that “the fire’s been really quiet today, probably due to the cloud cover we’ve had today.”

An update regarding containment will not be available until the crew comes off the line tonight and that will probably not be until late. There will be another crew briefing tomorrow morning. We will bring you more details then, unless something unexpected arises.

June 24 – 1:30 p.m. – Just checked in with Public Information Officer for the Treasure Fire outside of Leadville, Sarah Gallup: “no significant change from the morning’s plan” So that means the fire is still 5% contained. No new is good news at this point, but we’ll continue to keep you posted.

June 24 – 8 a.m. – The Treasure Fire continues to burn 6 miles north of Leadville in Birdseye Gulch. This video contains updates concerning the fire from Incident Commander Chris Naccarato, Leadville Ranger Jon Morrissey, and Lake County Sheriff Rod Fenske after the morning briefing on Sunday, June 24 at 8 a.m.

Update: Treasure Fire – Leadville/Lake County – June 24

At present the Treasure fire has burned approximately 300 acres in Birdseye Gulch in Lake County. The primary call came into the Leadville/Lake County Fire and Rescue at approximately 11 a.m. Saturday, June 23. While initial reports estimated the fire to be at only 4 acres, it was quickly fuel by tinder-dry conditions and a steady wind that held north-northeast for most of the afternoon on Saturday. At this morning briefing, officials estimate closer to 300 acres have now been scorched.

As of 8 a.m. Sunday June 24, the fire was only at about 5% containment, although the gulch itself provides a lot of natural fire breaks due to its terrain, including rock, granite and the natural timberline above 12,000 feet.

The overall consensus at this morning’s briefing was that firefighters had a “handle on the situation.” Any changes in that status will be reported on Leadville Today. And of course any public safety warnings for Leadville and Lake County residents will be issued formally from the Sheriff’s office. At present, the only road closure in place are both sides of Mosquito Pass.

How to Assist Firefighting Efforts

So what can the average Leadville/Lake County resident do to help? Donate to the American Red Cross was Public Information Officer (PIO) Sarah Gallup’s answer. And she’s absolutely right. While Leadville locals are used to providing support to one another in a multitude of ways, including home-cooked meals and a warm bed, the US Forrest Service firefighting operations has all of the basic needs of its crew provided (and actually regulated – any outside food would not be allowed to serve the crew), so the best way to support the Pacific Oasis Firefighting Crew from Ashland, Oregon who are here in Birdseye Gulch fighting the Treasure Fire,  is to donate to the American  Red Cross.

June 23 – From the Lake County Office of Emergency Management

A wild fire was reported in the Treasure Vault area at 10:46 a.m. west of Mount Arkansas Peak; east of State Highway 91 in Lake County near Leadville.  The U.S. Forest Service responded within minutes.  There are multiple resources on scene which include engines and hand crews.  Currently the fire is burning around 100 acres.  The fire is currently burning in an East – Northeastern direction.  All fire crews will be on scene throughout the night.


June 23 – A 100-acre fire is burning in Birdseye Gulch north of Leadville according to Mike McHargue, Lake County Emergency Manager. Although its been several hours since that initial report.

The fire started earlier today and there are currently three vehicles on scene fighting the blaze. Initially Leadville/Lake County Fire Department was dispatched to the location, however jurisdiction policies dictate that the management is now under the US Forrest Service. All emergency responders are working towards extinguishing the blaze. We will continue to provide updates as they are confirmed by emergency personnel.

The fire is located directly above White Mountain Tours an outdoor recreation company. Calls to their business phone, connected with someone in their Oregon office who was just receiving word of the fire and could not provide Leadville Today with any additional information. There is no cell phone service in the Birdseye Gulch area.There has been no official word on the cause of the fire. Until a full official investigation has been completed, Leadville Today will not speculate on the genesis of the fire.

Train Passengers Evacuated

However it did turn out to be an exciting day for passengers and crew aboard the Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad (LCSR), but fortunately one with a safe and happy ending. With 47 passengers and 4 crew aboard the morning run of this tourist attraction, once it was identified that a wildfire had ignited below the tracks, it was determined that in the interest of safety, everyone would be evacuated from the train and returned back to the station by vehicle.

“White Mountain Tours, as well as Climax, helped us immensely in the evacuation of all of our passengers and crew,” stated LCSR Director of Sales and Marketing Kirstin Ayers. The train currently remains on the tracks between the water tower and the end of line towards the Climax Mine.

The train is currently not scheduled to run tomorrow, Sunday, June 24.

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