CONIFER, Colo. (CBS4) – Fire crews are reporting strong progress in the battle against the Lower North Fork Fire in Jefferson County.
Mark Techmeyer of the sheriff’s department announced Friday morning that firefighters are focusing on containing spot fires in and around the perimeter of the fire.
The fire is 45 percent contained and there are 180 homes that remain evacuated with about 7,000 on standby for evacuations. There are five helicopter and more than 600 firefighters working on the fire.
Officials were relieved Friday morning to find that a Red Flag Warning for wind was canceled for the day, meaning wind speeds won’t be as high as expected. The winds could pick up significantly on Saturday though.
The U.S. Forest Service suspended prescribed burns on Friday on 14 million acres of federal forests in Colorado until the weather improves. That suspension is something supported by Rep. Mike Coffman.
“Until we know what happened, what went wrong here, I think there ought to be a suspension. Certainly in Colorado but also from a federal standpoint, across the country,” said the Republican representing Littleton.
“(Friday’s lesser winds) could really work in our favor,” Techmeyer said. “It also puts the heat on the day to really make some progress and see if we can button this thing up before that wind event happens tomorrow.”
Authorities said they will escort some of the homeowners who remain evacuated to their property for short periods of time Friday.
Current evacuees who want to retrieve something from their home should call the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office at (720) 454-4968 and leave a message if they want to make an appointment to be escorted to their home inside the burn area.
An investigation into why so many homes weren’t notified of the mandatory evacuation in a reverse 911 call continued Friday. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office admitted that about 12 percent of homes in the evacuation area did not receive a warning call.
“Our concern is on the number of households that never got the call period. We are still doing research on how many homes, that’s our real concern,” said Techmeyer.
Search and rescue teams are going back out into the burn area to look for a woman who hasn’t been seen since Monday. Officers confirm Ann Appel’s home was destroyed in the fire zone. Search teams have covered 220 acres looking for any sign of her.
Appel’s family released a statement Thursday stating: “We are urgently searching for Ann, and appreciate your prayers for her safety.”
A memorial service was set to be held Friday afternoon in Jefferson County for a couple who died in the fire.
The American Red Cross shelter at West Jefferson Middle School in Conifer will transition to a disaster recovery center, meaning it will close in the overnight hours. Hundreds of evacuees were allowed to returned home on Thursday and the shelter is no longer seeing evacuees who need to sleep there.
Also, utility crews are working to restore power to homes but it will take some time.
Postal officials said Friday that the Aspen Park Post Office is swamped with mail it has not been able to deliver because of the fire.
The post office is asking evacuees, if possible, to come by the office and pick up their mail.