DENVER (CBS4/AP) – Crews in northern Colorado braced for powerful fire-fanning winds as they battle the blaze that has scorched about 85 square miles of mountainous forest land and destroyed at least 181 homes, the most in state history.
The destructiveness of the High Park Fire burning 15 miles west of Fort Collins surpassed the Fourmile Canyon wildfire, which destroyed 169 homes west of Boulder in September 2010.
As of Sunday afternoon the fire has burned 55,050 acres.
In anticipation of potential gusty winds predicted with the Red Flag warning issued for Sunday a new mandatory evacuation order has been issued for the Hewlett Gulch Subdivision. All residents should evacuate immediately. The evacuation includes:
Hewlett Gulch Road
Snow Cliff Road
Deer Meadow Way
Star View Drive
Gobbler’s Knob Court
Happy Jack Road
Red Tail Trail
Gordon Creek Lane
Wild Mountain Lane
Mandatory Evacuation orders have also been issued for the Soldier Canyon and Mill Canyon areas which includes Lodgepole Drive and County Road 23 west and south including Red Cedar Drive, and east to County Road 23. There were 331 notifications sent in this area.
Pre-evacuation orders have been issued for the Shoreline Road area south of Lory State Park, with the southern border being County Road 38E, eastern border to be Horsetooth Reservoir and west to Red Stone Canyon. Residents in these areas have been put on a two-hour notice. There were 473 notifications sent.
Ninety-six notices have been sent out regarding this new evacuation. Residents should also be advised to use caution while driving because of heavy smoke in the area.
More than 1,630 personnel worked on the fire Saturday, officials said in a late-night news release. That was an increase of more than 100 firefighters from a day earlier. There are 103 engines, 17 helicopters working the fire Sunday. That includes three Black Hawk helicopters from the Army National Guard. Twelve Type 1 crews have constructed fire line from the intersection of Buckhorn Road and Cougar Drive up to White Pine Mountain. Crews plan to continue the fire break to Old Flowers Forest Road 152.
The lightning-caused blaze, which is believed to have killed a 62-year-old woman whose body was found in her cabin, was 45 percent contained, Cpl. Julie Berney of the Larimer County sheriff’s office said Sunday. The fire’s incident commander said full containment could be two to four weeks away.
Fire information officer Brett Haberstick said crews have made progress in containing a 200-acre spot fire that erupted Thursday afternoon north of the Cache La Poudre River, a critical line of defense against northward growth.
“Two 20-person hotshot crews worked throughout the day to secure lines around the perimeter of this spot fire,” the officials said in a release.
Firefighters have extinguished other incursions north of the river, but the most recent one appeared to be more serious.
National Weather Service meteorologist Kyle Fredin said some rain was expected in the fire zone Saturday evening, but it was not enough to put the fire out.
“We need a rain that will really last all day,” he said. “But it’s better than dry wind at this point.”
Crews faced difficult conditions Sunday with wind gusts expected to hit 50 mph along ridge tops and in Poudre Canyon and temperatures in the 90-degree range.
The fire was reported June 9 and has since raced through large swaths of private and U.S. Forest Service land. It was 45 percent contained late Saturday.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who oversees the Forest Service, met with fire managers in Fort Collins on Saturday and said “fighting this fire is going to require us to be aggressive, persistent and also patient.
“We’re going to continue to work to make our forests more resilient. We’re going to continue to ensure that adequate resources are provided for fighting fires and we are going to continue to make sure that we encourage appropriate stewardship of our forests,” he said.
Vilsack praised Congress for allowing the government to contract additional aircraft – particularly heavy tankers – to fight wildfires across the West. But he called on lawmakers for budget certainty to help plan for future fires.
Vilsack is scheduled to hold a news conference with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell in Albuquerque on Sunday.
The Red Cross opened an additional evacuation center at Cache la Poudre middle school. Laundry facilities are available at The Ranch for evacuees from 8 a.m. 6 p.m. daily.
The current cost of the fire to date is now estimated at $10.8 million.
The following is a list of homes destroyed by area:
Soldier Canyon – 1
Missile Silo Road – 1
Cloudy Pass – 1
Picnic Rock – 1
Pine Acres – 5
Stratton Park – 21
Poudre Canyon – 17
Spring Valley – 3
Old Flowers – 1
Whale Rock – 40
Paradise Park – 12
Tip Top – 2
Rist Creek – 7
Davis Ranch – 51
Laurence Creek/Redstone – 0
Buckhorn (CR44H) – Unknown
Stove Prairie Road – 10
Rist Canyon – 8
The assessment and recovery team continues their efforts to identify specific addresses of damaged or destroyed properties.
Residents who live in areas where property damage has been confirmed can call (970) 619-4086 to find out the status of their home. The line will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
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