USA — LARIMER COUNTY Fire crews made good progress corralling the massive High Park fire Tuesday, carving out barriers on the northeast and southeast edges, but the blaze remained active. And people pushed from their homes within its boundaries remained very anxious.
“I know the fire has burned through my property; I know that for a fact,” said John Brewer, who was away when the call to evacuate reached his wife, Georganne. “I heard rumors that my neighbor’s house is gone.”
At a meeting for evacuated residents Tuesday morning, he hoped to learn the fate of his home on Davis Ranch Road, but officials could not help him.
“It’s terrible not to know,” he said. “I love the place and plan on going back. I don’t care if the house is gone; I plan on living on that property.”
Some residents evacuated from the southern tip of Horsetooth Reservoir were allowed to return home Tuesday afternoon. Some pre-evacuation orders for subdivisions to the north were canceled.
New orders were issued in the northwest, in areas where roads might be closed as the more-than-43,000-acre blaze edges toward vast wilderness areas with few homes and a forest where beetles have killed 70 percent of the trees.
Firefighters aren’t focused there now, Type 1 incident team spokesman Steve Segin said, because of the extra danger that beetle-killed trees create for crews.
One step at a time
“We haven’t turned the corner on this, but we have made progress,” Segin said. “Once you start building lines, you just start connecting the dots. Dot to dot to dot.”
By today, Segin estimates the firefighter count will reach 680 and 100 engines will be out protecting homes and other structures.
Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said crews will begin structure assessment today.
Evacuees can find out whether their homes were burned or spared at a 3 p.m. meeting today at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland.
By Tuesday night, about 10 percent of the fire was considered contained. Firefighters also contained a 120-acre fire on the north side of Colorado 14.
“I breathed a sigh of relief today when I saw the progress these crews made,” Smith said.
Tuesday, there were five heavy air tankers, five SEATs (single-engine air tankers), four Type 1 heavy helitankers, three Type 2 helicopters, four Type 3 helicopters and three Black Hawk helicopters. Approximately 26 engines were on the scene.
Fire officials expect to have as many as 800 firefighters on the ground later this week, said Bill Hahnenberg, the U.S. Forest Service Type 1 Incident Management Team commander.
Their progress will depend on the weather.
The National Weather Service forecast a high today near 90, with winds of 6 to 9 mph out of the south and southeast.
“Any day Mother Nature can help is a good day,” Segin said.
About 50 National Guard military police have been activated to monitor checkpoints and control access. They are being helped by Colorado State University and Fort Collins police and the Colorado State Patrol.
Larimer County officials said there are people who have refused to evacuate Poudre Canyon and at least one resident who has tried to protect property by doing controlled burns around it.
More than 100 structures have been burned in areas including Rist Canyon, Paradise Park, Poudre Canyon, Poudre Park and Stove Prairie along Old Flowers Road.
Poudre Fire Authority Chief Tom DeMint said there are people fighting the blaze who have lost their own homes but remain on the fire lines. Some of them lost their homes as they protected the Stove Prairie School on Old Flowers Road, near where 62-year-old Linda Steadman died in her home Saturday.
“We are running on fumes,” DeMint said, “but we are out there.”