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

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Update, 5:49 a.m. June 25: Friday morning, reps for those battling the High Park fire near Fort Collins expressed concern that dry, hot, windy conditions forecast for the weekend might give the blaze a chance to gain strength and power -- and unfortunately, they couldn't have been more correct. The acreage increased in size, the amount of containment fell, and the number of homes destroyed ballooned to a shocking 248. And that's just the total confirmed. According to the most recent update on the federal InciWeb page devoted to the long-running incident (two-weeks-plus and counting), the fire now stretches over 83,205 acres -- the second-largest in terms of territory in Colorado's history, behind only the Hayman fire ten years ago (north of 138,000 acres). But High Park tops another category: Hayman destroyed "only" 133 homes, just over half the number currently estimated to have been consumed by High Park. Moreover, containment, which had held at 55 percent on Friday morning, has slipped to 45 percent due to the conflagration's enlargement.

A big factor has been the spot fire that bloomed in the Glacier View area -- although the word "spot" in this context seems entirely inadequate, given that it covers an estimated 10,000 acres, or 15.6 square miles, all by itself. It flared on Friday due largely to the presence of dry fuels and winds that gusted to 35 miles per hour. As noted by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, sprinklers were activated in the area before firefighters were forced to move back by the intensity of the flames.

Meanwhile, a containment line has been built and is being held north of the Poudre River -- not that those manning this perimeter will be able to rest easy. The LCSO points out that "large, unburned interior islands" continue to pose threats to homes on the interior of the fire. Hundreds of residences are still evacuated, and beetle-killed timber on the west and southwest portions of the fire seem poised to keep feeding the blaze in the near term, at least. The plan for today, say the feds, includes strengthening the line on the north, monitoring areas with structures, heavily staffing the southwest lines (the number of firefighters overall is up to 2,037) and "holding on to what we've got."

Look below to see more photos of the fire and the surrounding area, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, 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