Hewlett Fire: 87% Contained; Cost: $2.9 Million

Rain Helps Firefighters Get Handle On Wildfire

A northern Colorado wildfire that had forced the evacuation of dozens of homes earlier in the week was 87 percent contained on Sunday.

But the pricetag for fighting the 7,485-acre Hewlett Fire was a whopping $2.9 million as of Sunday. About 370 firefighters and three helicopters continued to battle the blaze in Poudre Canyon that began six days ago.

Lower temperatures and higher humidity during the day helped crews battle the blaze that scorched 12 square miles of timber and brush lands.

The fire, burning about 20 miles northwest of Fort Collins, had prompted officials to evacuate about 80 homes, but all residents were allowed to return by Friday night. No buildings have been damaged, and the blaze was about 45 percent contained Saturday afternoon.

Fire officials said a half-inch of rain fell Saturday, helping slow the fire's spread.

Scattered rain storms moved through the area in the afternoon, and temperatures were expected to remain in the 50s throughout the day -- more than a 20-degree drop from highs during the previous three days.

"The rain is definitely helping firefighters out there," U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Reghan Cloudman said. "It's good news, but we don't want people to let their guard down."

The U.S. Attorney's Office said 56-year-old James J. Weber of Fort Collins started the fire with an outdoor stove while camping in the Roosevelt National Forest. He said the wind blew his stove over.

U.S. Forest Service investigators said Weber, a mental health counselor at Colorado State University, tried to stamp out the fire Monday but fled as the blaze spread. He later reported starting the fire to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, officials said, but they wouldn't say what the time delay was between the start of the fire and Weber's call.

There is no cell phone service in the area where the man was camping.

The Forest Service issued Weber a citation for causing a fire without a permit, and he faces a $300 fine. Authorities also plan to pursue restitution for the blaze.

Weber's attorney, Joseph A. Gavaldon, declined to comment about how the fire started or any events that followed, but he said his client is praying with "hope that this gets under control."

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