EVERGREEN, Colo. - Firefighters are optimistic about their work against the 25-to-35-acre wildfire burning near Evergreen, dubbed the Bluebell Fire. Although homes were evacuated throughout the day, many residents were allowed to return home Monday evening.
"I am feeling very blessed right now," said Jean Levesque-Etling, who had just found out that she gets to return home. "So now we’re just praying for less wind."
Residents living north of Brook Forest Drive and Hemlock Lane were not being allowed to return home Monday night. And those residents in the other areas who are being allowed to go home were warned to remain ready to evacuate again.
"Even though most people get to go home, they have to remain vigilant. They have to be ready to go again," said Jefferson County Sheriff's Spokeswoman Jacki Kelley.
The fire is burning on private property about a half-mile west of the Clear Creek County line in Jefferson County. It is also approximately 1 mile from the Arapahoe National Forest, Kelley said.
There is no estimated containment at this time, but Kelley said conditions are improving.
"The fire is starting to lay down tonight. It is cooperating as it always does at night. Humidities are increasing. The winds have died down dramatically," Kelley said.
At its peak, the evacuation order covered a 4-mile radius with a southern boundary of Highway 285, a northern boundary of Buffalo Park Road, an eastern boundary of Highway 73 and a western boundary of the Jefferson County Line.
A Level 3 evacuation order, instructing people to "Leave Now," was also issued for Brook Forest Estates.
The evacuation alert known as CodeRED was sent to 9,911 phone numbers with a 71 percent success rate, the sheriff's office reported. The alert was also resent to 2,829 numbers at 3:30 p.m.
The fire was reported around 2 p.m. in 33000 block of Bluebell Circle, sheriff's officials said.
With over 100 homes threatened, firefighters said they were focused on structure protection. Although one home is within the fire perimeter, no structures have been lost.
Video from AIRTRACKER7 during the afternoon showed heavy smoke rising over the area and some flames crowning at the tops of trees. At one point, the camera zoomed in to show firefighters battling low flames in the brush downhill from a home.
Residents were gathering in an evacuation shelter at Conifer High School, located at 10441 Hwy 73 in Conifer.
Alisha Wiltse found out about the fire when a neighbor came to her door and alerted her.
"Our power had just gone out -- nobody in the neighborhood had power -- and so I didn't get the reverse 911. Unfortunately, all I had was cell service up there," Wiltse told 7NEWS reporter Jaclyn Allen at the Conifer High School evacuation shelter.
"I grabbed pictures and some toys for the kids and the cats…and some clothes," Wiltse said. "I'm hoping they get it under control. The wind conditions right now don't seem too promising. The good thing is (the firefighters) know what they're doing…They got it early."
Another resident recalled the fear in neighbors' faces as they drove up in their cars, grabbed a few belongings from their homes and then took off.
At the Broce Ranch, south of Buffalo Park Road, ranch manager Steve Stoddard said he and his employees were moving the horse herd to the east side of the ranch to be ready for evacuation.
He said the fire was burning on the southern edge of the ranch. Winds were blowing the flames toward the southwest.
The National Weather Service said winds were at 15 mph and gusting to 23 mph.
"It's right on the south edge of the ranch and moving fast," Stoddard said. "The firefighters are attacking it from the Brook Forest Drive side."
"There's a big neighborhood back there, so we're all a little worried," Stoddard added. "It's real windy up here right now and these things can shift so quickly."
So far, no homes have been damaged and no injuries have been reported.
It's not clear what caused the fire, which is under investigation.
The Jefferson County Public Health agency has not issued a burn permit for any residents on Blue Bell Circle since April.
Residents were told to take large animals to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, located at 15200 W. Sixth Avenue Service Road in Golden, and to take small animals to the Foothills Animal Shelter, located at 580 McIntyre St. in Golden.
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