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Firefighters prepared to protect structures around Cameron Peak Fire, now Colorado's largest fire on record

Cameron Peak Fire_Oct 15 2020_by Salvatore John La Ferlita
Posted at 9:46 AM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 09:04:23-04

The Cameron Peak Fire, now the largest wildfire in Colorado's history, burned through another 3,013 acres of new land Thursday, bringing it to 167,153 acres in size by the evening. It remains 56% contained and no injuries have been reported.

The fire became the largest in Colorado history on Wednesday evening. It took only 48 days for the Cameron Peak Fire to surpass the 139,007-acre Pine Gulch Fire as the largest in recorded state history, and also blew past the 137,760-acre Hayman Fire in 2002.

Cameron Peak Fire map morning_Oct 15 2020

In a Thursday morning update, Operations Section Chief Paul Demerico of Rocky Mountain Team 1 said they are expecting a challenging few days ahead.

"But we have beefed up and feel like we have adequate resources to do what we can, especially when it comes to structure protection," he said.

The following places in Larimer County are under mandatory evacuations:

  • County Road 27 (the Buckhorn Road) from County Road 44H south to Masonville
  • Otter Road (Buckskin Heights)
  • Glen Haven, Glen Haven Retreat, Storm Mountain and Palisade Mountain
  • The Redstone Canyon area
  • Bobcat Ridge Natural Area
  • Masonville
  • Horsetooth Mountain Park
  • Overhill Drive
  • Milner Mountain
  • All of Rist Canyon Road, including Stratton Park, and Lory State Park

The following places in Larimer County are under voluntary evacuations:

  • County Road 52E (Rist Canyon Road) from County Road 27 east to County Road 2)
  • Area of Highway 34 from Drake to just west of the Dam Store. (The highway was temporarily shut down in both directions between Loveland and Estes Park to help with evacuations, but has reopened.)

The City of Fort Collins tweeted Thursday night that while the fire pushed toward the west side of Horsetooth Reservoir, "there is little concern about it reaching or causing evacuations in Fort Collins city limits."

An American Red Cross evacuation center has been opened at the Embassy Suites in Loveland, located at 4705 Clydesdale Parkway. The Red Cross has also set up a new phone line (800-417-0495) for evacuees to call for information. Those affected can also go to the Hilton Garden Inn at 821 E. Harmony Road in Fort Collins, where volunteers will assist whoever is in need.

The Canyon Lakes Ranger District of the Roosevelt National Forest closed Thursday morning. This closure includes recreation sites — including all campgrounds — trails and Forest Service Roads.

Rocky Mountain National Park announced an additional closure of the Lawn Lake Trail on Thursday afternoon. Multiple other ares in the northern part of the park are already closed.

View the mandatory evacuations in the map below, or go here for the full list of evacuations and closures.

To sign up for emergency alerts in Larimer County, visit NOCO Alert's website here. For updates for people who have been forced to evacuate, text the word LCEVAC to 888777 from your cell phone.

Demerico said the western side of fire is almost all contained, but the fire was able to run east all the way to County Road 27 thanks to the wind, terrain and dry fuels.

The main objective for the next day or so is to keep the fire south of 44H Buckhorn Road and west of County Road 27, he said.

Winds will continue to be a problem over the next few days, though they won't be as strong as Wednesday, Demerico said. Structure protection resources are scattered around Storm Mountain, Cedar Park, Glen Haven and Estes Park.

The gusts also prevent fire officials from flying aircraft to help fight the blaze from the air.

The fire's incident meteorologist is predicting a Red Flag Warning to begin at 11 a.m. Friday.

Larimer County residents may see periods of moderate to heavy smoke in their neighborhoods Thursday, according to the Colorado Air Quality Summary. The smoke may impact Fort Collins and Loveland as well.

air quality oct 15 2020 for cameron peak fire
This graph from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows the air quality levels as of 7 a.m. Oct 15.

The National Weather Service said smoke from both the Cameron Peak Fire and the new East Troublesome Fire in Grand County will move toward Denver Thursday afternoon.

The Cameron Peak Fire became the largest wildfire in Colorado history on Wednesday evening.

The state's 10 largest wildfires in history, ranked by acreage, are:
1. Cameron Peak Fire (2020): 167,153 acres
2. Pine Gulch Fire (2020): 139,007 acres
3. Hayman Fire (2002): 137,760 acres
4. Spring Fire (2018): 108,045 acres
5. High Park Fire (2012): 87,284 acres
6. Missionary Ridge Fire (2002): 72,962 acres
7. 416 Fire (2018): 54,000 acres
8. Bridger Fire (2008): 45,800 acres
9. Last Chance Fire (2012): 45,000 acres
10. Bear Springs/Callie Marie fires (2011): 44,662 acres
Note: The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center said the West Fork Complex fire, which burned a total of 109,632 acres in 2013, is not included on this list since it involved three separate fires.

The Poudre Schools District said as of Thursday morning, it had identified more than 300 students in kindergarten through 12th grade who were affected by the Cameron Peak Fire. It is working with those students to see how they can support them.

Scroll through the below StoryMap to see the fire's progression since it sparked on Aug. 13.