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Chemical Ping-Pong Ball Used In High Park Firefight

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An image of the High Park Fire on Wednesday (credit: CBS)

An image of the High Park Fire on Wednesday (credit: CBS)

GALLERIES: COLORADO'S WORST WILDFIRES

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – The total acreage of the High Park Fire Thursday afternoon was at about 52,000. Fire officials said the fire had grown more since that estimate was given but not much.

It was between 15-20 percent contained Thursday afternoon but a thunderhead whipped up winds on the southwest side of the fire which caused some areas of dormant fire to spark up once again. It also launched embers from torching trees into the wind which then started the spot fire.

The fire west of Fort Collins has cost an estimated $7.2 million to fight so far. That’s up $3 million from an estimate Thursday afternoon.

Officials in Larimer County on Thursday called off evacuations in some areas around the fire, but at about 5:20 p.m. Thursday 80 homes in the Glacier View subdivision were ordered to evacuate. Pre-evacuation orders remain in effect for the remaining 1,600 homes in the neighborhood on the fire’s northwest flank.

Those new evacuation orders are from Many Thunders Road south into the 12th filing. It includes: Meadow Mountain Drive, Little Bald Mountain Court, Grey’s Peak Court, Diamond Peak Court, Little Twins Court, Red Mountain Court, Pingree Hill Court, Rabbit Ears Court, Bullrock Court and Black Mountain Court.

The roadblock is at Eiger and Many Thunder Mountain. The fire has crossed the road aat Steven’s Gulch. Because of the evacuation order, the community meeting planned for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Glacier View Community Center was cancelled.

Of the approximate 2,600 evacuation notifications sent out 1,187 have been lifted. Residents will be required to show identification with proof of address in order to have a pass issued.

Officials said at least 48 homes have been destroyed, but they are still checking to get a total number, which is likely much higher. Officials informed residents of 17 homes Thursday afternoon that fire had destroyed their property. Those homes were located at the Stone Prairie intersection to the mouth of Poudre Canyon.

Of those homes destroyed, 17 were in Poudre Canyon, 22 were located in Stratton Park, five in Pine Acres located in lower Rist Canyon and four along the Front Range in the Poudre Fire Authority District. At least 100 structures have burned.

RELATED VIDEO:8 p.m. Thursday Update for High Park Fire

Those who live in areas where property damage has been confirmed can call 970-619-4086 to find out the status of their home. This phone line will be staffed from 8:00 a.m. from 5:00 p.m.

There are more than 1,300 fire crews working to get control of the fire along with 22 different aircraft fighting the blaze by air. More resources are expected. Firefighting efforts will continue 24 hours a day, with many staff working 12 hour shifts.

On the northwest corner of the fire crews have started using a kind of chemical ping-pong sized ball that is dropped from the air. A chemical reaction starts a small controlled burn that crews then use to fight fire with fire in what is known as a burnout procedure. Crews said the strategy has been very successful and they will continue to use it.

“As they’re being dropped from the container, ethanol is injected into the ping pong ball, and inside the ping pong ball potassium permanganate is in the ball. When those two substances, those two chemicals come together they heat up and by the time they hit the ground there is enough heat to melt the plastic of the ping pong ball and it disintegrates and then it starts a small ignition,” said Sunshine Fire Protection District spokesman Brett Haberstick. “The finer fuels is where it’s most effective, like pine needles, grasses, that kind of thing.”

Crews are holding the line on Buckhorn Road. Electrical lines and phone poles are being reinstalled in an effort to restore utility services.

Evacuations were lifted Thursday for Bonner Peaks and Bonner Springs subdivision, as well as County Road 27, including Big Bear Road but not Otter Road. Residents need to go to the evacuation center at The Ranch in the Larimer County Fairgrounds to get credentials to get back into their neighborhoods.

Residents living along County Road 29C, also known as Missile Silo Road, have been allowed to return home as of Thursday afternoon.

Crews are having better luck on some fire lines than others. The interior and west side of the fire are still active. The southeast and northeast corners are mopping up and the line in those areas are holding. The Poudre Canyon area has been less active than in previous days.

The fire continues to push west into heavy beetle killed fuels; however, fire behavior on the western section of the fire was moderated by a brief rain shower on Thursday.

“This fire being in positions like it is is of a concern, and that why we’re going to try to continue to (light back burns) to keep this fire in check,” said Bill Hahnenberg, manager of the Rocky Mountain Area Incident Manager Team. “What we don’t want is high winds and low humidity driving this fire out of the south and it making a several mile run, and it could do that.”

One person was killed in the fire; the remains of Linda Steadman, 62, were found in her burned home.

The fire is the third largest in recent Colorado history. The fire’s area is bigger than the city of Fort Collins.

Wildfire Resources

- Visit CBSDenver.com’s Wildfire Resources section.

- Read recent Wildfire stories.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

- See images from the most destructive wildfire (Fourmile Fire) and largest wildfire (Hayman Fire) in Colorado history.

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