Craig and Trise Ansbaugh don’t take the smell of smoke lightly in the quiet corner of Left Hand Canyon where they live.
The couple, who have lived for 23 years at the base of U.S. Forest Service Road 287, west of the off-highway vehicle area in the canyon, said Friday’s 15-acre Left Hand Fire hit too close to home.
“I remember standing right here and watching as that whole hillside blew up (in flames),” Craig Ansbaugh said, referring to a 1988 blaze — also called the Left Hand Fire — that left the same area charred.
He and his wife left their home and hiked up the rocky road Friday afternoon, stopping to gaze across a valley at smoke and flames that rose up from ground still showing evidence of the fire 16 years ago.
“One of our neighbors called and said, ‘I smell smoke. Where is it?’ So we came up here,” Trise Ansbaugh said.
The couple said they were evacuated from their home during the 1988 fire and worried their home would be threatened again. They were relieved to see firefighters keeping the fire from spreading toward the home, which they share with their teenage sons.
Firefighters confirmed Friday that the blaze — which had grown to 15 acres by 5 p.m. after being ignited just before 1 p.m. — was 25 percent contained and not expected to grow much larger. The fire was burning in grass and trees, several of which were completely engulfed.
“It could grow another 15 acres (at most),” said Edward Perault, deputy Boulder District ranger for the U.S. Forest Service. “It’s kind of weird that this fire started at all, since we had a phenomenal, wet summer.”
The blaze burned near the area of last October’s 3,400-acre Overland Fire.
Officials said Friday’s fire was caused by a target-shooter.
“It’s been really busy up here today,” Perault said, noting the area was packed with visitors attracted by the warm weather.
Perault said 35 firefighters — from Left Hand, Hygiene and Lyons fire protection districts, the Boulder Mountain Fire Authority and the U.S. Forest Service — were working on the blaze Friday afternoon, but additional crews from Fort Collins were expected in the evening.
Additionally, crews from Pridemark Paramedics and representatives from the Longmont Emergency Unit were on hand to help.
Perault said he expected firefighters to remain at the scene all night to work to fully contain the fire.