Colorado wildfires rage as blaze incinerates dozens of mountain homes, ranks among state’s costliest fires

Firefighters in Colorado were able to gain ground Monday against the state’s largest wildfire on record, as the damage from another blaze has totaled among the most costly in state history. 

The largest blaze currently burning in Colorado, the Cameron Peak Fire, is now 205,004 acres and 51% contained as of Tuesday morning. 

“We were finally able to go on offense,” incident commander Dan Dallas said.

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Officials said firefighting efforts were “very successful” throughout the day, despite near-critical fire weather conditions.

The Cameron Peak Fire has burned over 205,000 acres and is 51% contained as of Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020.

The Cameron Peak Fire has burned over 205,000 acres and is 51% contained as of Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020.
(US Forest Service/InciWeb)

“There were no impacts to any structures that we are aware of and fire growth over the last 24 hours was only about 100 acres,” officials said on Facebook.

Officials were able to fly “a lot of aircraft,” with tankers and helicopters conducting drops over a 24-hour period. 

The Cameron Peak Fire started in mid-August and is burning west of Fort Collins and has grown to be the state’s largest.

Wildfire managers estimate that more than 50 structures have been destroyed in the Cameron Peak blaze, another 50,000 are threatened and almost 13,000 people have been evacuated. More than 1,500 firefighters are working the blaze, according to officials.

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Firefighters from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) out of Windsor shared footage of intense windy conditions that crews are experiencing. A crew was unable to approach the blaze on Oct. 19 as strong winds whipped up diest.

“In situations such as this, there is little to nothing any human or piece of equipment can do besides watch the activity from a safe location,” the department wrote on Instagram. “With many of us on the module being locals, this fire has been a little more personal, as this is the area that some of us lived and grew up recreating in.”

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Officials caution that weather conditions that allowed them to go on the offense may be changing. A red flag warning will go into effect Wednesday at noon through Thursday morning, meaning that conditions to rapid fire spread will exist.

The Cameron Peak Fire started in mid-August has has grown to the largest in state history.

The Cameron Peak Fire started in mid-August has has grown to the largest in state history.
(U.S. Forest Service/InciWeb)

Full containment of the Cameron Peak Fire isn’t expected until sometime in November.

The Cameron Peak Fire has burned over 205,000 acres and is 51% contained as of Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020.

The Cameron Peak Fire has burned over 205,000 acres and is 51% contained as of Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020.
(U.S. Forest Service/InciWeb)

Another blaze that’s grown to 9,106 acres in the mountains above Boulder is now 17% contained and destroyed dozens of homes. 

Boulder County official said the CalWood Fire has damaged or destroyed at least 26 properties, with at least 20 homes a “total loss.”

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The neighborhood was filled with properties that real estate website Zillow said were collectively worth over $36 million, according to FOX31.

The CalWood Fire is now the fifth costliest fire in Colorado since 2003 due to damage to properties, even though it only burned over 9,000 acres, FOX31 reported.

Officials on Monday were able to use more aerial assets due to diminished winds, but said over the next two days that high wind gusts up to 45 mph are possible.

The CalWood Fire has grown to 9,106 acres in the mountains above Boulder, Colo.

The CalWood Fire has grown to 9,106 acres in the mountains above Boulder, Colo.
(US Forest Service/InciWeb)

Some 3,000 people remain under evacuation orders and are still fearful for their homes. 

“I’m just sort of numb right now. Sort of in a fog,” Mary Ann Beard told the Daily Camera. 

Another blaze in Colorado that started on Monday, the Ice Fire in San Juan County, burned over 300 acres after starting in the afternoon hours.

The San Juan County Office of Emergency Management said the blaze broke out in the South Mineral recreation area just above the Ice Lake Trailhead.

“San Juan County Sheriff’s Department handled an immediate evacuation of campers and hikers in the area,” the agency said on Facebook. 

A total of 23 hikers and three dogs were located above a trailhead and evacuated by helicopter from the scene.

“There is no imminent threat of evacuation at this time for Silverton/ San Juan County residents,” the agency said. “It is good to be prepared given the proximity of the Ice Fire. Silverton/San Juan County residents should familiarize themselves with the READY, SET, GO evacuation plan.”

Colorado remains under varying levels of drought, with officials saying that dry conditions and high winds causing any fires that start to rapidly spread. 

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“It’s so dry that it’s hard to get a handle on them,” Larry Helmerick, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, told Reuters.

The federal interagency wildfire is tasked with dispatching resources across the region.

Fire danger and air quality issues will continue on Tuesday over the West, especially in California where dry, warm conditions and gusty winds have enhanced the wildfire danger.

Fox News’ Janice Dean and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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