Basalt gun range, where Lake Christine Fire sparked, to reopen | SteamboatToday.com

Basalt gun range, where Lake Christine Fire sparked, to reopen

Jason Auslander
Aspen Times
A Colorado Parks and Wildlife employee uses a bulldozer to create a berm at the Basalt Shooting Range on Thursday. (Anna Stonehouse/Aspen Times)

BASALT — The Basalt-area shooting range where a still-smoldering wildfire started more than two months ago will reopen Saturday, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials.

“It’s time to open it,” Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager Perry Will said Thursday afternoon. “We need to provide a place for people to shoot.

“I don’t want them doing dispersed shooting. That’s the whole reason for the range and why it was created in the first place.”

The Basalt State Wildlife Area shooting range has been closed since July 3, when the Lake Christine Fire began. Prohibited tracer ammunition fired by a local couple ignited brush near the range and started the fire, which has burned more than 12,500 acres, destroyed three homes and cost an estimated $17 million to fight so far.

Richard Miller and Allison Marcus are facing felony arson charges. The fire remains 90 percent contained, while all area fire restrictions have been lifted.

Parks and Wildlife officials held two well-attended meetings in Basalt in recent weeks to gather community input about what to do with the range, which has been in use since the 1940s.

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Will and other officials said during those meetings that not having the range open for hunting season was causing hunters who need to sight their weapons to do so on Bureau of Land Management and national forest land. Shooting in dispersed areas like those, which is legal as long as it is safe, creates even higher fire danger, he said.

“Shooting in a controlled environment is always better,” Will said Thursday, adding that he thinks the range is now safe.

There was “overwhelming support in the community to keep it open and have a safe place to shoot,” Will said.

Planned upgrades to the facility include permanent removal of brush and vegetation, installation of fire extinguishers, improvements to the backstop and hiring range safety officers who will be present at all times during operating hours, according to Will and a news release.

Read more at AspenTimes.com

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