Publisher’s Note: This story is made available free of charge to all readers in the interests of public safety. Support the work of Coloradoans to keep northern Colorado informed by signing up using the link at the top of this page.
Firefighters face another critical fire risk day on Saturday as the Cameron Peak Fire rages on in the mountains west of Fort Collins and Loveland.
According to a Facebook update from Paul Delmerico, head of operations for Rocky Mountain Incident Team 1, the Cameron Peak Fire grew nearly 15,000 acres from Friday morning to 187,537 acres.
The morning update also noted that firefighters are facing the same critical conditions as they did on Friday, when high winds spread the fire south and east towards communities like Drake, Glen Haven, and others near Big Thompson Canyon.
Delmerico said crews expect winds in the area to blow up to 60 miles per hour from around 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday
“That is not conducive to direct repression,” said Delmerico. “At this point, we resort to a point protection strategy that is about protecting (structures).”
Delmerico said Saturday’s plan is still to mitigate the growth of the fire in the east as crews will try to keep it west of County Road 27 and north of County Road 43. This area at the southeast end of the fire is where most of the fire brigade is located. According to the update, resources are currently focused.
As of Saturday, 1,330 firefighters will be working on the Cameron Peak Fire.
Even if the fire grows eastward, according to Delmerico, the crews are “very confident” about the fire lines on the north and west sides of the fire, where containment is already strong.
Estes Park not “in the direct line of fire”, but also “not out of the forest”
In an update on Saturday morning, Paul Delmercio, director of Cameron Peak Fire Operations, addressed concerns about the Estes Park community.
Voluntary evacuations were conducted along the corridor of US Highway 34 near the city at the gate of Rocky Mountain National Park on Friday, and mandatory evacuations spread eastward near the western border of Loveland. Flames could be seen in the mountains above Estes Park on Friday.
Because of the terrain around Estes Park and the way the fire was moving southeast, Delmercio said the fire department did not feel that Estes Park was “imminent or in a direct line of fire”.
But the church isn’t out of the woods yet, he said.
“A shift in wind, an anomaly could change that, but for now we are confident about the people and their characteristics as well as the progress of the fire in Estes Park,” said Delmercio.
– Jennifer Hefty
More: Why the Cameron Peak Fire likely won’t reach Fort Collins or Loveland
The Saturday forecast includes gusty winds in the fire area and widespread smoke
A red flag warning predicting another day of gusty winds and low humidity will be in place for the fire area until 6:00 p.m. Saturday when a cold front is expected to move across the front range, causing lower daily highs and lower winds brings with it.
But first gusts of up to 80 km / h are expected across the fire area, with gusts of up to 100 km / h over 9,000 feet.
Widespread smoke in Loveland and the Denver metropolitan area is expected to increase on Saturday, and air quality in the Fort Collins area is expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups until some clearing is expected on Sunday.
Wildfire map: Track smoke, fire from Cameron Peak Fire
While the daily maximum values in the fire area cool down until Monday, there is only a low probability of precipitation in the extended forecast of the National Weather Service, which means that “almost critical” fire activity is expected in the coming days.
– Eric Larsen
Cameron Peak Fire Activity Update: Fire hits Buckhorn Road
The updated map, released Friday night, shows that the fire reached Buckhorn Road north of Masonville and started a point fire near the northernmost point of Otter Road to the east. Additional details regarding the spread of the fire on Friday were not available until 8 a.m. on Saturday.
In anticipation of another day with “extreme fire behavior and rapid spread rates”, the operations managers ordered another 200 engines to protect the structures, as the fire brigade had grown to 1,330 people by Friday evening.
The fire is 57% contained, but its continued growth in the southeast threatens mountainous communities like Glen Haven and Drake along Big Thompson Canyon.
Catching up: Big Thompson Canyon ordered an evacuation Friday
The fire has burned at least 100 buildings since it started more than two months ago, although damage assessment teams believe that number will increase after this week’s significant fire activity. The cause of the fire is believed to be due to human activity, but research continues.
Northwest of the Cameron Peak Fire, the Mullen Fire, which burns in southern Wyoming and northeast Jackson County, has grown to 176,840 acres, with 53% contained since the last report. The fire damaged 66 buildings and its cause is still being investigated.
– Eric Larsen
Read or share this story: https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/local/wildfires/2020/10/17/cameron-peak-fire-area-braces-for-more-high-winds/3681299001 /