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

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Update, 5:45 a.m. June 26: After huge losses of ground and property over the weekend, crews slugging it out with the High Park fire near Fort Collins are currently holding their ground despite conditions just this side of appalling. The engaged acreage isn't rising at the previous rate -- a good thing, given that about 130 square miles have already been burned -- and containment is moving in the right direction again.

Here are the most recent basics, as supplied by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office: 83,262 acres consumed, 55 percent containment, $31.5 million spent thus far -- and the meter's still running. Number of personnel: 1,941, split up among thirteen Type 1 hand crews and twenty Type 2 hand crews, among other groups. Right now, 170 engines, eleven dozers, 24 water tenders, seven Type 1 helicopters, three Type 2 helicopters, nine Type 3 helicopters and five heavy air tankers are at war with the elements -- a significant portion of the equipment designated for fighting wildfires nationwide. That's how big a priority High Park remains.

According to the most recent update to the federal InciWeb page devoted to the disaster (new info was posted nine hours ago at this writing), the new team that took over command of the response on Sunday focused on line construction along the northern border of the fire and a burnout procedure on the west and southwest, where fire-backing consumed more land. Mop-up functions also took place in assorted locations along the blackened frontier -- those where pretty much all the damage that could be done has been already.

Some people whose homes have survived thus far (unlike those living in the confirmed 248 that haven't) are being allowed to return to them, including residents living from Willow Patch Lane and Buckhorn Road south, and from Feverfew Road and CR25E South, including Otter Road and those thoroughfares branching from it. But thousands remain dispersed throughout the area, waiting to go back home, and wondering what they'll find once they're given the all-clear.

Unfortunately, the weather isn't expected to improve as the day goes on. There's a Red Flag warning in effect from noon until 9 p.m., with fears of gusty thunderstorms, winds, very low humidity and, perhaps most frightening of all, dry lightning a possibility. The hot spell that's settled over northern Colorado couldn't be more ill-timed.

Below, see more photos courtesy of the Colorado National Guard, followed by our previous coverage.

Page down to see 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