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

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Update, 11:50 a.m. June 11:: At this writing, the news about the High Park fire about fifteen miles from Fort Collins is the opposite of good. The amount of acreage burned has leaped up from around 20,000 late yesterday to around 37,000, and a Larimer Sheriff's rep suggests that the number of burned structures, previously estimated at eighteen, could actually be north of 100.

Eighteen is still the number mentioned on the InciWeb page for the fire, but tweets from a variety of news agencies covering the latest news conference are using the 100-plus structure estimate.

The press is being asked not to show photos of the destroyed homes, etc., out of deference to owners -- at least not until the destruction has been confirmed and those individuals have been contacted and informed.

Containment is still at 0 percent. See our earlier coverage below.

Original item, 5:55 a.m. June 11: All of Colorado is at risk for serious blazes this year -- but the area around Fort Collins has already been hard hit.

Less than a month since the stubborn Hewlett fire finally flamed out, the High Park fire has grown to about triple the previous conflagration's size, and it's continuing to get bigger. Photos and videos below.

According to the latest update on the U.S. Forest Service's High Park fire InciWeb page, updated about seven hours ago at this writing, the flames' origins can be traced to approximately 5:54 a.m. on Saturday morning, June 9 -- and unlike the Hewlett fire, which investigators believe was started by a spark from James Weber's alcohol-fueled stove, nature rather than a human being appears to be the culprit, via a lightning strike. From there, wind fueled the fire, which spread quickly over rugged land around fifteen miles west of Fort Collins. Thus far, 20,000 acres have been consumed, and containment is estimated at 0 percent.

Here's a look at the most recent map showing the outlines of the blaze.

The Forest Service warns about visibility concerns along Highway 287, but the smoke has spread far beyond that point. Indeed, folks throughout the Denver area couldn't help noticing the hazy skies and scent of smoke in the air throughout yesterday. On Sunday, eight twenty-member crews were joined by a slew of additional firefighters and plenty of equipment: five single-engine air tankers, known as SEATs, two Type 1 helitankers, two Type 3 helicopters, three heavy air tankers and a lead plane, in addition to fifteen engines.

A Type 1 management team is expected to take over management of the fire today. In the meantime, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office catalogs the destruction to date:

• Eighteen structures -- a mix of homes and outbuildings -- have been confirmed damaged, but there could be more. Worse, CBS4 reports that a thus-far-unidentified person who's home was destroyed on Old Flowers Road is missing.

• One firefighter was ambulanced out of the area for heat exhaustion yesterday.

• The original evacuation center, at Cache La Poudre Middle School in Laporte, has been changed to the Ranch at I-25 and Crossroads Boulevard due to increasing smoke in the Laporte area. Large animals can be taken there, while smaller animals should go to the Larimer Humane Society.

Click here for the latest InciWeb info, and look below to see user-generated videos of the fire to date.

Page down to see more High Park fire 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

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