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High Park Fire: Firefighters Increase Containment, Have A 'Very Good Day' Battling 87,000 Acre Blaze (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

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Firefighters battling The High Park Fire near Fort Collins, the largest fire currently burning in the state, have gained some ground on the 87,250 acre blaze, as of Tuesday. Containment -- which fell from 60 percent to 45 percent last week -- is back up to 65 percent.

"We had a very good day," Operations Chief Kole Berriochoa said Monday. Despite some growth in fire size, record high heat, winds approaching 43 mph and very low humidity, firefighters held the north fire edge line by Hewlett Gulch. According to InciWeb.org, authorities said that the activity in the center of the fire was moderate and on the southwest corner -- where the fire burned down slopes to Forest Road 135 toward Pingree Park on Sunday -- firefighters successfully held the line.

However, Operations Chief Jeff Surber said that conditions for fire growth are still ripe saying, "There's still a lot of heat out there, a lot of heat near the line." The National Weather Service issued another Red Flag Warning on Tuesday between noon and 9 p.m. marking the sixth day in a row for the very high fire danger warning.

The Haines Index -- a scale of 1 to 6 (6 being the worst) that firefighters use to rank fire growth potential in a region -- is at level "6" again Tuesday and into Wednesday, the same levels reached during last weekend's extreme fire growth.

High heat over the weekend produced a surge of new fires burning throughout Colorado and also provided fuel and devastating growth conditions for the fires already burning. A total of ten major fires were burning over the weekend, all part of the worst wildfire season in a decade.

More than 1,900 firefighters battle what is now the second largest fire in Colorado history as well as the most destructive. The High Park Fire burned an additional 57 homes last week, bringing the total number of homes destroyed to 257. Authorities expect that number to grow after further assessment of the burned-out area is complete.

On Friday, the fire crossed the Narrows in Poudre Cannyon, The Coloradoan reported, burning through subdivisions in the region. According to InciWeb.org, hot shot crews were attempting a direct attack of the raging spot fire, but due to the intensity and rapid spread both the hot shot crews and engines involved in structure protection in Glacier View had to pull back for safety reasons.

This new spot fire burned aggressively toward the northeast and an additional 10,000 acres burned in the Glacier View area by Saturday night, according to InciWeb.org.

"We thought the worst was over because they said it was going up Rist Canyon," Judy Devore, resident of Larimer County, told 9News.

But unfortunately conditions got much worse Friday -- the blaze moved northward after some embers that blew from the main fire sparked a spot fire north of Poudre Canyon -- by Friday evening the spot fire had grown to at least 2,000 acres.

The Larimer County Sheriff's Office ordered 998 evacuation notices to homes in the region on Friday.

Good progress was being made during a brief period of cool weather as evidenced by fewer heat sources identified by infrared imagery, according to InciWeb.org. However, officials say that it could be weeks -- or even months -- before the fire is completely under control.

Last week, reporters were given a tour of a burnt out community along Larimer County Road 29C, Missile Silo Road. 9News' Kevin Torres spoke with firefighters in the area who spoke about the devastation and the time it will take for the area to recover -- at least a generation, firefighters said. Patrick Love of the Poudre Fire Authority told Torres, "Most of us will be dead before things look the way they used to."

Burning since June 9 after lightning struck a tree on private land and now on its 18th day, firefighters battle the wildfire with the help of 22 helicopters, 164 fire engines and 11 dozers. The cost of the fire to date is $31.5 million.

A radiometric imaging system -- called the Radiometric Airborne Mapping System (RAMS) -- which provides real time GPS coordinates for areas of identified heat, and heat sources (open flame, smoldering, buried or diminishing heat) arrived over the weekend and fire officials plan on attaching it to the bottom of a helicopter to scan the fire area and help determine where to focus their efforts.

The massive fire has now burned approximately 136-square-miles -- to put this size into perspective, that's approximately the same size as the cities of Boulder, Broomfield and Fort Collins, Colorado combined.

InciWeb.org has the latest evacuation information:

  • PRE-evacuation notifications sent to residents along Colorado Highway 14 from the Pingree Park Road on 6/19, west to Glen Echo (mile marker 90), and north on CR69 to Goodell Corner. The Shoreline Drive area is also in a pre-evacuation. PRE-evacuation orders for the Bonner Peak area, including the area from Springs Ranch Road on Hwy 287, north to CR76H, west to CR37, south to CR74E, south to CR74E and back east to Hwy 287.
Evacuation orders remain in place for the following areas:
  • At 7:43 p.m. on 6/22 Fire officials issued evacuation orders for residents along County Road 74E from Hewlett Gulch Road east to County Road 37. (6 contacts) At 7:15 p.m. Fire officials issued an immediate evacuation along Highway 14 from Hewlett Rd and Wild River Rd, east on Hwy 14 to include all of Poudre Park. Evacuees are asked to go to Cache la Poudre Middle School and use 80c as the egress road.
  • An evacuation order was issued at 2 p.m. on 6/22 for all of Glacier View, including Kelly Flats Road. This includes all residents of Glacier View filings 1-8, homes north of County Road 74E to include Green Mountain Dr, Mount Axtell Dr., Mount Moriah Rd., Mount Simon Dr., and all connecting roadways in that area.
  • Mandatory evacuation orders were issued on 6/17 for residents in the Hewlett Gulch subdivision area. The area runs from the Glacier View 9-12 filings (already evacuated) east to the Hewlett Gulch Trail, north to CR 74E and south to HWY 14.
  • An evacuation order for the 9th, 10th and 11th filings of Glacier View, to include the area west 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. Evacuations were also ordered along Many Thunders Road and south into the 12th Filing of Glacier View. The road block is located at Eiger and Many Thunders Mountain Road.
  • Pingree Park Road, Hourglass and Comanche reservoirs, east on Buckhorn Road up to and including Pennock Pass, NE to junction with Stove Prairie and Hwy 14; West to junction with Highway 15 and Pingree Park Road
  • County Road 44H (Buckhorn Road) from County Road 27 to Pennock Pass and residents to the south approximately 3/4 - 1 mile.
  • Buckhorn Road up to the Stove Prairie School.
  • Poudre Canyon from MM111 to MM114 on Highway 14. (Stove Prairie to Hewlett Gulch Trail)
  • The area between CR 27E and Stove Prairie Road and south through the entire Rist Canyon area including Davis Ranch Road and Whale Rock Road.
  • South on County Road 44H 3 miles to just north of Stringtown Gulch Road, Paradise Park Road, Moose Horn Lane, Magic Lane and Spencer Mountain Road.
  • Old Flowers Road from Stove Prairie Road to the 8000-block of Old Flowers Road.
  • Stove Prairie Road north along County Road 27 to Highway 14, east along Highway 14 to approximately mile marker 111, southeast to Rist Canyon Fire Station 1, then back west to to include Wilderness Ridge Way, Rist Creek Road, Spring Valley Road and County Road 41 and all of the roads that run off it.

For official fire maps and live updates from the ground of the many Colorado wildfires currently burning, visit InciWeb.org.

Residents who live in areas where property damage has occurred can call 970-619-4086 to find out the status of their home.

LOOK: Dramatic photos, video of the High Park Fire

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