Two homes feared lost in second Colorado wildfire
LOVELAND, Colorado – Authorities believe a second wildfire burning in the foothills of northern Colorado has destroyed two homes, but firefighters were hopeful Monday that they could gain control over the blaze.
There are six to 10 homes within a half mile of the 700-acre fire, but it wasn’t moving very aggressively, Larimer County sheriff’s Maj. Bill Nelson said.
Firefighters were hoping to take advantage of the lull and drop more fire retardant on the blaze, which has burned about a square mile. Nelson said authorities were in a good position to get the blaze under control using an air tanker and helicopters that had been fighting a wildfire 35 miles to the south, near Boulder.
“We need to control it today. We have enough resources to do that,” he said.
The fire near Boulder destroyed at least at least 166 houses, and officials expected to have it fully contained later Monday, one week after it broke out and quickly spread because of strong winds.
The fire near Loveland started just as hundreds of people were able to return to homes scorched by the first blaze.
They were met with the dreary sight of burnt trees, melted mailboxes and uneven patches of blackened ground. At one destroyed property, all that remained was a stone chimney surrounded by walls of brick about waist high. Saplings in the front yard were burnt and barely their trunks remained.
A senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told the Denver Post that authorities were looking into whether a resident’s fire pit sparked the week-old blaze. The newspaper did not name the official.
The sheriff’s office was aware of the Post article but won’t comment on the cause or origin of the fire because it’s under investigation, said Sarah Huntley, a spokeswoman for the fire response. Meanwhile, authorities issued a ban on open fires effective Monday evening, barring the use of charcoal grills and campfires as well as trash and debris burns.
Winds were much calmer when the fire broke out near Loveland, and rounds of helicopters assigned to the Boulder fire were brought in to drop bucket loads of water Sunday. Air tankers also helped dropped fire retardant to slow the spread of the blaze, allowing fire crews to get in and build containment lines around about 10 percent of the fire. Nelson cautioned, however, that there were some gaps in that line.
Ron and Carol Christensen confirmed that the fire destroyed their home on Turkey Walk Trail, according to the Loveland Reporter-Herald. The Larimer Humane Society was able to rescue their sheltie.
About 300 firefighters – including elite hot shot crews – were expected to work on the fire.
Residents within a four-mile radius fire were told to evacuate. Andy Hiller, a Loveland spokesman, said the city sent evacuation notifications to more than 1,700 phone numbers.
The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, but with no lightning in the area recently, Nelson said he assumed the fire was somehow started by people.