LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – The Cameron Peak Fire burned more than 30,000 acres as it actively spread to the east on Wednesday and the burn area now covers 164,140 acres, from the Continental Divide to within 10 miles of Fort Collins. As a result of that sudden growth, fueled by high winds, a number of new areas are now under mandatory evacuation orders. Hundreds of people had to evacuate on Wednesday and some people are reportedly resorting to staying in campsites as hotel rooms are filling up.
Two different official evacuations centers were set up on the Front Range — one at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fort Collins and one in Loveland at the Embassy Suites.
Rick Fisher, an evacuee there, said on Thursday morning he’s eager to return to his home in Buckhorn Canyon soon. He also said he’s grateful for the hard work firefighters are doing trying to protect homes like his.
“There’s a lot of them staying here at the Embassy Suites in Loveland,” Fisher told CBS4. “I’ve talked to some of them in the elevators and they’re pretty beat. One guy I talked to yesterday was fighting the fire for 11 days in a row. And all that he wanted was a hot shower. Those guys I take my hat off to. They’re doing a great job.”
The wildfire is 56% contained and the cause remains under investigation. It started on Aug. 13 and for the first month or so that it was burning it only covered an area southwest of Red Feather Lakes that was about 30,000 acres in size. It is now the largest wildfire in Colorado’s recorded history. A total of 1,011 personnel are working on the Cameron Peak Fire.
The official report from wildland fire managers in charge of the firefight on Thursday states the following:
Yesterday, expected high winds and dry fuels created extreme fire conditions for firefighters and eliminated the opportunities to use air suppression resources. The Incident Management Team worked closely with the Larimer County Sheriff’s office to update evacuation orders as the fire pushed to the east. Firefighter and public safety remain our top priority as we work to protect the communities, businesses and infrastructure in the path of the fire.
In Branch I, the west wind aligned to have a lesser effect on the fire area to the north and west of Highway 14. One small spot fire near Joe Wright Reservoir in Division A/D was caught and secured. The spot fire on the NE corner of the fire south of Bellaire Lake, in Division F/L/R, has been fully contained and mopped up. The rest of Branch I continues to be in monitor and patrol status. Along Highway 14 through the middle of the fire, firefighters will patrol and monitor structures as safety concerns allow.
In Branch II, south and east of Highway 14, the strong westerly winds during the last 24 hours aligned with terrain to push the fire east of Pingree Park Road along the Buckhorn drainage and across CR 27. In anticipation of this, Division T and Division V resources were moved in position, and as the fire reached finer fuels and the wind slowed a bit, firefighters were able to catch forward progress just east of CR 27. Today, firefighters will continue working to keep the fire south of 44 H Buckhorn Road and west of CR 27. Communities to the east saw large smoke plumes and reduced air quality. Yesterday, a surge of 64 Type 1 structure engines began arriving to assist with holding the fire, assessing structures and providing point protection.
In Division X, fire managers are scouting farther to the south and east to identify possible contingency lines. Division U forces continued to work around the CSU Rocky Mountain Campus when possible, as egress has become a safety issue. They will also be scouting and developing contingency lines to the south of Signal Mountain to prevent further fire movement towards the Glen Haven area. The area of the fire in Rocky Mountain NP in Division W/Z will be monitored by air today weather permitting.
A Structure Protection Group is working to the north of the fire assessing structures and conducting point protection. In Branch II, structure protection will assess, and if necessary protect, structures to the east of CR 27 and to the south in and near the communities of Glen Haven, Crystal Lakes and Estes Park.
Weather & Fuel Conditions: Although the winds will not be as strong as yesterday, they will again play a significant role in fire behavior. If winds align with terrain again today, fire behavior could challenge firefighters. The incident meteorologist is predicting a Red Flag Warning to begin at 11 am tomorrow. Please monitor Facebook and Inciweb as we provide real time updates from the fire line.
Evacuations and Closures: For updates, text the word LCEVAC to 888777 from your cell phone. Emergency information will be forwarded as needed. This is the best way to get information about the situation in your area.