The Lower North Fork Fire is now 90 percent contained according to information released by the Jefferson County Sherrif's Office around 10 a.m. Saturday.
Friday night, a Reverse 911 message was sent to approximately 500 homes near the the Lower North Fork Fire zone warning them of the imminent high fire danger, the sheriff's office said.
The message of the call said:
"This is an information message from the Jefferson County Sheriffs Office. Please be vigilant to changing weather conditions and be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice. The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for wind and low relative humidity which is in effect from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday.This notice includes areas in the current Lower North Fork Fire area. This message will be announced again about 10 a.m. Saturday."
Around 180 homes in the Kuehster, Critchell, and Maxwell Hill neighborhoods remain evacuated and the 720 families who have been allowed to return home were told to be on standby to evacuate.
Residents are also asked to avoid the area near the fire perimeter as much as possible in order to allow emergency vehicles clear and safe access to the fire region. Should fire conditions change first responders will need safe and rapid access to the fire area.
By Friday night, the fire was 70 percent contained and had scorched 4,140 acres.
There was only 3.5 miles of containment line left to build and the planned firefighting strategy for Saturday will include continuing to construct and improve containment lines while also continuing mop up efforts., the sheriff's office said Friday night.
Around 550 firefighters had been working throughout the day on Thursday and Friday to extend the containment line, knowing that that Red Flag conditions were forecast for Saturday.
The Red Flag warning from the National Weather Service reads:
"Red Flag Warning in effect from noon to 8 PM MDT Saturday
An upper level ridge will cover Colorado now through Saturday. By Saturday night
southwesterly flow aloft will be on the increase
continuing into Sunday night. An upper trough will push across Colorado through mid day Monday. Winds are expected to increase over the Burn area on Saturday and continue fairly strong Saturday night and Sunday. With the upper trough approaching Sunday night
winds will decrease. Behind the trough on Monday
more moist weather is expected."
"We could see highs in the mid-80s on Saturday in Denver. Saturday's forecast high is 84 degrees which would tie the all-time record high for March, set back in 1971 -- not to mention setting the record high for March 31st," said Meteorologist Matt Makens. "Winds Saturday will increase over the western mountains, but stay reasonable for the Eastern Plains and Front Range."
Firefighters are worried that Saturday's conditions could match the conditions of last Monday when the winds sparked embers from an earlier prescribed burn. Incident commander Rich Harvey said he is concerned Saturday's winds would re-kindle hot spots in the Lower North Fork Fire and push them into trees and vegetation outside the fire line, forcing a new evacuation.
The Lower North Fork wildfire, which erupted Monday, has been difficult to extinguish because it is burning in steep and rugged terrain, the area is extremely dry and there continues to be large amounts of unusually dry fuels to burn.
The wildfire is burning in the Pleasant Park area, southeast of Conifer.
A total of five other helicopters will continue to assist firefighters from the air. The four Blackhawk helicopters that have been used are no longer needed and have returned back to Buckley Air Force Base.
The sheriff's office plans to hold news briefings Saturday afternoon to update the public about the fire. The time of those briefings will be determined after weather conditions are fully assessed.
Fire Disaster Recovery Center Opened
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office also opened a Fire Disaster Recovery Center on Saturday to help the homeowners who had lost or damaged homes in the Lower North Fork Fire zone get help and information.
"There will be agencies, departments and organizations available to answer questions; and there will be written information for community members to take for future reference," the sheriff's office said in its blog
The Fire Disaster Recovery Center will be located at West Jefferson Middle School and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday. The Red Cross Shelter at the middle school has closed.
This map of the fire and the containment line was printed on Friday at 2 p.m. The data shown on these maps is accurate as of Thursday at 10 p.m.
Still No Sign Of Ann Appel
The Urban Search and Rescue team has continued the search for Ann Appel, a woman whose home burned down in the fire zone.
The 36-member team and six dogs have covered 360 acres.
If You Want To Help
Specific donations are being requested to assist the families impacted by the Lower North Fork Fire. One-hundred percent of the items donated will go directly to the families impacted and displaced by the fire.
Mountain Resource Center, a local community center in Conifer, located at 11030 Kitty Dr., has agreed to accept the following items Monday-Friday 9-5 and this Saturday and Sunday from 9-2:
Cash or checks- checks may be mailed to Mountain Resource Center, P.O. Box 425 Conifer, CO 80433
Financial donations may be made at www.mrcco.org
Gift cards in small denominations of $15-25.00 (Target, Wal-Mart, local grocery stores and gas stations)
Pantry food items that are non-perishable
Those wishing to donate furniture or appliances are asked to contact the center directly at 303-838-7552 or email email@example.com. Mountain Resource Center is not able to accept furniture at this time but will coordinate requests with community members wishing to donate.
Mountain Resource Center is not able to accept clothing items at this time.
The sheriff's office has also implemented a fire ban for all areas of unincorporated Jefferson County.
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