SILVERTHORNE, Colo. (CBS4)– Firefighters say there was no new growth on the Buffalo Fire overnight. Officials say the fire was not caused by nature.
The fire remains at 91 acres but is zero percent contained on Wednesday morning.
Evacuated residents were allowed to go to their homes for a short time to gather what they need before leaving again.
Wednesday evening, Summit County officials said evacuated residents would be allowed back in their homes again from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. Those residents are asked to go to the checkpoint at Twenty Grand and Ryan Gulch Road to check in.
Crews remain vigilant for new embers. They say the biggest reason why they’ve been able to keep the fire from moving into the subdivisions are “fuel breaks” that were put in place over the last several years.
“Without a doubt, this is a serious situation, but wildfire is a reality that we live with here in the western United States,” said White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams in a statement. “The good news is that all the right people are here, and we’re attacking the fire aggressively, with firefighter and public safety as the top priority.”
On Wednesday, hand crews will work to build a control line in the beetle-kill trees and work with air operations. There are 150 firefighters battling the wildfire.
PHOTO GALLERY: Buffalo Fire
In an aggressive attack from the air, crews dropped water and fire retardant to keep flames from spreading.
The firefighting efforts had evacuated residents like Richard White feeling grateful to still have a home.
“(If it were not for) that, two to three hundred homes would have been gone,” White said of his neighborhood. “We’re hoping that we can get back in in a couple of days.”
Warm, dry and breezy conditions didn’t make firefighting efforts any easier. Nor did the tightly packed subdivisions at risk of burning.
“It made for a tactical nightmare, with the fire running between two subdivisions,” said Jeff Berino, Chief of Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.
Firefighters split off into teams to protect houses in both the Wildernest and Mesa Cortina neighborhoods.
Firefighters will continue mop-up efforts to secure the perimeter of the Mesa Cortina and Wildernest neighborhoods. Large portions of those neighborhoods remain under evacuation, with 1,384 residences under the evacuation order. The pre-evacuation area, Mesa Cortina and Wildernest below Twenty Grand, contains about 1,160 residences.
Crews mapped out where to create additional defensible space, cutting down trees near homes.
“Things looked good last night, and the fire did not grow,” said Summit Fire & EMS Chief Jeff Berino in a statement. “This has been a great team effort all around, and we are deeply appreciative of all the agencies who have come together to help out. We realize that this is an inconvenience, especially for the evacuees, so we ask for patience and understanding that our primary goal is to keep everybody — the public and firefighters — safe.”
Since 2006, the U.S. Forest Service has created a 900-acre buffer between the houses and the trees there. “To try to mitigate fire when it does occur,” explained Ranger Bill Jackson, with the U.S. Forest Service.
“If it were not for this fire break, along with aggressive air attack and ground support, these two subdivisions most likely would have significant fire damage or be destroyed,” Berino said.
Gov. John Hickenlooper commended crews for their fast response.
“You’ve got to go after these fires the moment you see them. And if you can get to them soon enough, you can shut them down,” Hickenlooper said.
The fire is burning two miles west of Silverthorne and has burned 91 acres since it began Tuesday morning. The cause of the fire is unknown.
Additional Information from Summit County:
There will be a public meeting tonight at 6:15 p.m. at the Silverthorne Pavilion, located at 400 Blue River Pkwy., Silverthorne, CO 80498.
Evacuations: Twenty Grand Road is closed from Ryan Gulch Road to Royal Buffalo Drive. All roads above Twenty Grand Road are also closed. Authorities will seek opportunities to allow residents to return temporarily to their homes, as conditions allow, until the sheriff lifts the evacuation order.
– Visit CBSDenver.com’s Living With Wildfire section.
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