A new spot fire on Tuesday morning triggered a pre-evacuation notice at the High Park Fire near Fort Collins.
The Larimer County Sheriff's Office issued the pre-evacuation order for Highway 14 from the Pingree Park Road west to approximately mile marker 90, just west of the Glen Echo Resort. The order includes Rustic Road, which runs south off of Hwy 14 (just west of Glen Echo).
"A spot fire in the northwest corner of the fire, over Poudre Canyon Road/Highway 14, is what triggered a pre-evacuation alert for this area," officials said.
"We're not asking people to leave, but simply to be ready to leave at a moment's notice," explained John Schulz with the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.
The 250-acre "slopover" occurred in the Narrows area, and firefighters spent much of Tuesday actively working on it, said fire information officer Bernie Pineda during a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
Notifications were sent to 95 people. If residents need to evacuate, they will need to go west on Highway 14 to Walden.
The pre-evacuation notice issued to people in Glacier View remains in place.
There will be a community meeting for Glacier View residents at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Gate 8.
Schulz said it would take officials at least 24 hours after an area has been contained before officials can go in to evaluate whether residents should be allowed back.
"People shouldn't expect that when we have a black line on the map, that ... they could go back right away," Schulz said. "We are constantly evaluating areas for entry."
He said to date, 3,096 emergency notifications have gone out for evacuations. That number includes landlines, cell phones, text messages, pagers, and emails. He estimates about 75 percent of that is homes so more than 2,300 homes had been ordered to evacuate during the course of this fire.
Huge Plume Seen From Distance
A huge plume of smoke that billowed over the area on Tuesday actually occurred in the fire's interior, and although it looked menacing, was not a big concern, officials said.
"During the course of the day, at various locations, there were a lot of flames and a fire plume -- all of that is well within the interior. As soon as we started seeing that, we started getting Type 1 and Type 2 crews on it," said Pineda.
The smoke rose to such a height that it formed ice crystals and its own cumulus cloud, known as a pyrocumulus, said NOAA Interagency Meteorologist Dave Lipson.
He noted that Tuesday was the third day that firefighters have battled under a red flag warning with single-digit humidity levels and high temperatures.
"It's been an interesting few days. Today is really no different, although there's some good news. There is a wind shift, a cold front coming," Lipson said.
The cold front moving in now would drop temperatures and raise humidity levels, but unfortunately, bring no moisture, said 7NEWS Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson.
"We could see overcast skies Thursday morning ... maybe an isolated thunderstorm before it heats up again this weekend," Lipson said.
Nevertheless, temperatures will feel much cooler, which will bring relief for the 1,800 plus firefighters working 24-hour shifts.
Even at 3 a.m., firefighters are seeing temps in the 50s or 60s, Lipson said.
"We turn the furnace back on Friday and into the weekend so hopefully we can make some progress," Lipson said.
Friday could also be troublesome because there will be some wind and it will be about 100 degrees on Saturday, Nelson said.
Swirling Winds Could Be Problematic
Since the fire is so large, officials worried that opposing winds could create a potential whirlwind in the fire zone.
"Today we're going to see winds we would call dynamic, or swirling," said Incident Commander Bill Hahnenberg at a Tuesday morning briefing. "Swirling winds can be problematic, causing dusty conditions in all these canyons."
Officials expect winds of 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 30 mph on Tuesday.
On the west side of the fire winds will be out of the west and on the east side of the fire, winds are predicted to be out of the northeast. If the opposing winds materialize, it could cause an eddying effect and extreme fire behavior, officials said.
The red flag warning expires at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
49 Miles Of Fire Line Has Been Built
The High Park Fire has burned 59,500 acres and destroyed 189 homes. It is 55 percent contained.
Hahnenberg said firefighters have built 49 miles of fire line around the fire.
There are 1,800 fire personnel working on the wildfire day and night with a 24-hour work schedule in place.
There are also 117 fire engines, 36 crews, 24 water tenders, 4 bulldozers and 17 helicopters assigned to the blaze.
Smoke from the High Park Fire on Tuesday, June 19.
There were two air tankers available for the High Park Fire on Tuesday morning. Hahnenberg expected to have two or three more available by the end of the day.
"We will continue to be aggressive when we can be, patient when we need to be, and we will be persistent to take this to a successful conclusion," Hahnenberg said.
About 700 firefighters are working out of other camps scattered around the perimeter of fire to make them more efficient, officials said.
"I think morale is good," Hahnenberg said Tuesday. "These men and women train, and actually relish, these kinds of assignments."
"My goal as an incident commander is to support them in the highest level possible with food, good sleep, meaningful assignments and safe working conditions," Hahnenberg said.
On Tuesday, the first priority is protecting homes inside the burn area.
"Making sure this fire isn't getting re-established and potentially threatening homes within the fire area in these unburned areas," Hahnenberg explained.
He said the second priority was along the southeast corner including Red Canyon Road and the Lawrence Creek area.
"We still have a lot of work to do here, but we've made a lot of progress," said Hahnenberg.
The High Park Fire was ignited by a lightning strike that hit June 6, the fire ignited June 9.
The current cost of the fire to date is now estimated at $14.7 million.
Fire Employee Injured
A person assigned to the fire was injured on Monday at 5:30 a.m. Officials said the injury was non-life threatening and was not fire line related. The victim was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Here are the subdivisions that had homes destroyed in the fire, according to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office:
-- Buckhorn area down to Redstone Canyon - 8 -- Soldier Canyon - 1 -- Missle Silo Rd (29C) - 1 -- Cloudy Pass - 1 -- Picnic Rock - 1 -- Pine Acres - 5 -- Stratton Park - 21 -- Poudre Canyon - 17 -- Spring Valley - 3 -- Old Flowers - 1 -- Whale Rock - 40 -- Paradise Park - 12 -- Tip Top - 2 -- Rist Creek - 7 -- Davis Ranch - 51 -- Stove Prairie Road - 10 -- Rist Canyon - 8
Larimer County has opened the High Park Fire Disaster Recovery Center at Johnson Hall on the Colorado State University Campus. The center is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The center will likely remain open for 3-4 weeks. More information about the Disaster Recovery Center can be found at Larimer.org.
View Larger High Park Fire Map
| Google Earth Infrared Map: http://tinyurl.com/8y95l2x
Map of Fire from Larimer County: http://larimer.org/highparkfire/inventory_area_map.pdf
Another Larimer County Map: http://larimer.org/highparkfire/HighPark_0613_2200.pdf
InciWeb Link: http://inciweb.org/incident/2904/
Air Quality Link: http://www.colorado.gov/airquality/advisory.aspx
You can also call the Larimer County Emergency Information line at 970-498-5500 or go to http://www.larimer.org for more information.
Larimer County residents can sign up to receive emergency notifications on cell phones or email at www.leta911.org .
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