High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened

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Update, 5:55 a.m. June 15: No sleeping easy for folks living in the vicinity of the High Park fire near Fort Collins.

At 11 p.m. last night, residents of the Glacier View area, representing 200 households or so, received emergency evacuation notifications regarding the blaze, whose containment percentage continues to inch upward -- but so does the amount of acreage burned.

According to the most recent post on the InciWeb page devoted to the disaster (it was updated just five hours ago at this writing), the number of acres burned is estimated at a jaw-slackening 52,000, up from just shy of 47,000 at this time yesterday. The containment, too, has risen, from 10 percent to 15 percent. But flare-ups continue to occur. The evacuation order for Glacier View, including the area east from Eiger Road to Rams Horn Mountain Road and north from the Mount Blanc Guardian peak area to the north end of Mount Everest Drive, was issued due to what's described as a "spot fire" -- presumably the sixty-100 acre scorcher on the north side of Poudre Canyon near Steven's Gulch. It was exacerbated by a late afternoon thunderstorm cell that parked over the southwest corner of the fire, causing down-drafts that revved up the flames.

Note that this particular spot isn't even the largest reported to date. Another one fitted with this description stretched over 120 acres. That's an enormous spot.

The Glacier View evacs built throughout the early evening. At 5:15 p.m., fire officials preceded this edict with an order for those in eighty residences along Many Thunders Road and south into the 12 Filing of Glacier View to leave their homes for safer shelter.

In the meantime, we're hearing more about destroyed structures -- the subject of mainly estimates before now. Thus far, 31 homeowners from the Stratton Park and Pine Acres neighborhoods, as well as those in other parts of Poudre Canyon, have been told their places didn't survive. On top of that, seventeen more homes in the Poudre Canyon from Stove Prairie to the mouth of the canyon are confirmed destroyed -- and unfortunately, no one believes the total will end there.

The number of personnel fighting the fire is up to 1,387. Meanwhile, Governor John Hickenlooper has announced a statewide burning ban, to include the use of fireworks -- all to prevent more blazes like this one from starting. Cost of fighting High Park to date: $7.2 million and rising.

Below, see a new video from the Glacier View area, followed by fresh photos courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service and our previous coverage.

Update 5:51 a.m. June 14: Gaining the upper hand against the High Park fire has been extremely difficult for firefighters.

Despite a massive expenditure of resources in terms of both equipment and personnel, the blaze gained in size yesterday, albeit modestly, with containment at just 10 percent and the potential for further growth labeled as "extreme."

This last term can be found on the U.S. Forest Service InciWeb page related to the conflagration. According to the most recent update, posted late last night, the size of the fire is estimated at 46,820 acres, with the west side of the zone, where approximately 70 percent of the trees have been killed by pine beetles, causing the most concern. Hence the continued evacuation, which has impacted more than 600 homes to date. There's been one casualty thus far: Linda Steadman, 62, who perished in her beloved cabin.

The army of firefighters has grown to 1,263, more or less doubling in a single day. As noted by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, the ranks include fifty military police from the Colorado-Wyoming National Guard, who are manning roadblocks.

Some evacuations have been lifted -- notably those in the Shoreline Drive and Bellvue area from County Road 27E to the east. And more may be possible if the weather holds (temps are expected to be cooler, with humidity in the 14-18 percent range) and tactics like a burnout operation in the southern portion of the fire that reinforced fire lines prove successful. But no one is under any illusions about the fire being on the cusp of a mop-up. There are too many flames and too much fuel for that at this stage.

Look below to see new videos of the scene, followed by our previous coverage.

Page down for our previous coverage, including photos and videos.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts