A Colorado fire that’s been burning since mid-August flared up anew Saturday amid warm, dry weather and high winds, prompting new mandatory evacuations, authorities said.
The Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in state history, burned through 187,537 acres with 57 percent containment, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The blaze west of Fort Collins thrived as gusty winds blew in ahead of a cold front.
The fire has been burning so deep into fall that it snowed more than once, halting progress temporarily but ultimately having little longterm impact, said Cass Cairns, a multi-agency spokeswoman for the incident.
“It dries out really quickly,” she said.
The new evacuations were announced Saturday by the city of Loveland. The evacuation map appears to cover more than 100 square miles. Larimer County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jered Kramer said Saturday that evacuation notices have been sent to 3,000 recipients in the last 24 hours.
A Saturday report from the National Interagency Coordination Center said, “Several communities threatened.”
Investigators have not determined what caused the fire, which started Aug. 13.d This week’s wind event was the fourth since mid-August, each occurring before a cold front that brought little relief, Cairns said.
Experts have said this year’s record fires in the West correlate to climate change.
The fire season in Colorado usually ends in September, Cairns said. Ski resorts often start opening in October, but this year some will contend with the Cameron Peak Fire.
A spokesman for Loveland Ski Area didn’t immediately respond to a request for information. The resort said in a press release Monday that it had received nearly 6 inches of snow Oct. 11 and was producing manmade powder. Last year it opened on Oct. 25, but no opening date has been set yet for 2020.
The National Weather Service forecast a high temperature near 70 Saturday for Loveland. The agency warned of “hazardous weather” caused by winds up to 50 mph. Rain and snow were possible Sunday night before warm temperatures were expected to return.
The high winds kept water- and retardant-dropping aircraft grounded Saturday, she said.
The Cameron Peak Fire comes during a devastating year for wildfires in the West, including the August Complex Fire in California, that state’s largest ever.
The National Interagency Coordination Center said Saturday there are 29 large, “uncontained” wildfires burning in the United States. Besides local, state and federal firefighters, U.S. Marines and even crews from Mexico have been dispatched to quell some of them, it said.