UPDATE (Saturday, Aug. 15, 11:15 a.m.): The Cameron Peak Fire in western Larimer County was 5,424 acres in size, with zero containment, Saturday morning after it more than doubled in size on Friday. Click here for the latest updates.
LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. – The Cameron Peak Fire in western Larimer County more than doubled in size throughout the day Friday, and the fire was continuing to show extreme behavior.
Matt Champa, a U.S. Forest Service Ranger and incident commander trainee for the fire, said in a news conference Friday afternoon that the fire was "just too hot and dangerous" for crews to engage directly with it. Champa called the fire behavior "pretty significant" on Friday afternoon and cited extremely dry conditions throughout the Rawah Wilderness, near where the fire started near Chambers Lake.
Champa estimated that the fire had almost doubled from the earlier estimate of 2,180 acres. The U.S. Forest Service later updated the total size of the fire to 4,590 acres. U.S. Forest Service Fire officials said that the Cameron Peak Fire spotted to the south side of Highway 14 on Friday afternoon and created another fire that was estimated at 100 acres in size.
Crews have focused on evacuating residents, hikers and campers from the area and evaluating where the fire might spread in the coming days.
A Type 2 Incident Management Team was ordered to the fire Friday morning to help battle the flames. Champa said more than `120 crewmembers were working the fire by Friday afternoon.
The Colorado National Guard said it was launching an aircraft to help Larimer County officials search for a family of four in the area of the Cameron Peak fire, though their exact location was not yet known. Larimer County officials on the afternoon news conference said they were working with crews at the scene to get more information about the reported search.
The fired started Thursday afternoon and grew to more than 1,500 acres in less than four hours.
The "very active" Cameron Peak Fire which shut down Cameron Pass on Highway 14 at mile post 61 at 3:30. p.m. was reported to be 1,540 acres in size by 7:15 p.m., according to U.S. Forest Service’s Canyon Lakes Ranger District.
The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center said an air attack and jump ship and three helicopters had been called in to the fire, as well as ground resources. The RMACC said that two large air tankers and four single-engine air tankers have also been ordered.
However, the U.S. Forest Service said just after 5 p.m. that air support was “unable to assist this afternoon due to high winds.” A Type 3 Incident Command Team is fighting the fire, and a Type 2 Incident Command Team has been ordered to assist, the Forest Service said.
Approximately 40 firefighters were battling the blaze as of 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
Evacuations in place
The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said that local campgrounds were voluntarily evacuated and that Highway 14 was closed between Rustic and Gould.
At 3:30 p.m. Friday, the sheriff's office issued a mandatory evacuation for Highway 14 between Rustic and Gould and Laramie Valley Road between Highway 14 and Deadman Road.
By 7:20 p.m. residents living near the Long Draw Road and Long Draw Reservoir area - which was on pre-evacuation orders Thursday - were ordered to evacuate due to fire activity. Residents were advised to travel west to Gould when leaving this vicinity, as eastbound traffic was not allowed for safety reasons.
The evacuation area also included Deadman Road between County Roads 103 and 73C and Manhattan Road between Rustic and Boy Scout Ranch Road and Pingree Park south and west of Crown Point.
On Thursday, around 4:30 p.m., the Larimer County Sheriff’s office sent out an evacuation order for residents and businesses in the areas of the intersection of Highway 14 and CR 103 north to Four Corners, as well as the areas surrounding Chambers Lake.
“You will need to travel north into Wyoming for safety reasons. Do not delay leaving to gather belongings or make efforts to protect your home or business. Evacuating immediately not only supports your safety, but also allows emergency crews better access to the area,” the evacuation orders said.
Residents who have to evacuate can text LCEVAC to 888777 for updates.
Voluntary evacuation orders were also announced from Crown Point east to the Pingree Park Road and south to just past County Road 44H (Buckhorn Road) by 6:46 p.m.
By 6 p.m., evacuation orders had been modified to include the following areas: south of County Road 86 (Deadman Road) from County Road 103 east to County Road 73C and south to Highway 14.
The Larimer County Sheriff's Office was also asking travelers to avoid going to the Poudre Canyon and Red Feather Lakes areas because of the fire.
"With current weather conditions and fire behavior, we expect the evacuation area to grow," they said in a tweet.
The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office on Friday morning asked people to also avoid the Crown Point and Long Draw areas, as well as the areas west of Red Feather Lakes, south of Deadman and the southern end of the Laramie River Valley.
The sheriff’s office said Friday morning that if you live inside the roadblocks on Highway 14 between Gould and Rustic and are not in a mandatory quarantine area, you can access your property by showing proof of address at a roadblock if authorities determine the area is safe.
#CameronPeakFire - If you live inside the roadblocks (Hwy 14 - Gould to Rustic) and are not in mandatory evac, you may access your property. Go to roadblock and show proof of address. We'll determine if it is safe. Interactive maps of evac areas at https://t.co/29yOmAPTWw— Larimer Sheriff (@LarimerSheriff) August 14, 2020
State Forest State Park is inaccessible from the east side, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said. Crags campground, American Lakes, Lake Agnes and Michigan Ditch are closed because of road closures, though the fire is not currently threatening the park.
National Forest lands were being closed west of County Roads 69 and 63E, east of the Colorado State Forest, south of County Road 80C and north of Rocky Mountain National Park. View the closure map here.
-- County Road 103 is closed south of County Road 86, so if you use County Road 103, you must go north to Wyoming. Traveling east, you may use County Road 74E from 86. Those on Highway 14 must travel east.
-- Highway 14 is closed between Rustic and Gould.
High fire activity in Colorado Thursday
The area where the fire is burning is currently experiencing moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The Colorado Air Pollution Control Division for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said the Cameron Peak Fire was adding smoke to an already polluted air mass and advised Larimer County residents to limit time outdoors Thursday evening, particularly if engaging in strenuous activities.
The Cameron Peak Fire is located 25 miles east of Walden and 15 miles southwest of Red Feather Lakes.