An end to the High Park Fire appears to be in sight after weeks of devastating loss. As of Thursday evening, 1,125 firefighters have the High Park Fire 85 percent contained -- the highest percentage of containment to date after a setback last week, when containment had fallen from 60 percent to 45 percent, and up ten percent from Wednesday. Firefighters expect full containment by Sunday, July 1.
The blaze burning near Fort Collins was the most destructive fire in Colorado history, but is now the second most destructive as of Thursday afternoon when the extent of the damage from the Waldo Canyon Fire emerged and made the Colorado Springs fire the most destructive fire in state history.
257 homes have been reported as officially destroyed by the High Park Fire and 346 homes officially destroyed in the Waldo Canyon Fire, but those numbers are expected to change as the full scope of the damage becomes clear in the weeks and months ahead.
The High Park Fire remains the second largest fire in state history having burned 87,284 acres -- second only to the 2002 Hayman Fire which consumed 138,114 acres.
The U.S Forest Service also announced that fire crews are officially now in a "mop up" stage of the fire that has burned a total of 87,284 acres, according to The Denver Post. This follows a Wednesday announcement that the majority of residents who were evacuated from the region should be able to return to their homes by week's end.
The progress the firefighters have made is remarkable given the size of the fire, days of record heat including eight days of Red Flag Warnings in row indicating high fire growth potential.
According to InciWeb.org, much of the fire shows no smoke, but a considerable amount of heat remains so firefighters are seeking out the hotspots and putting them out.
As the firefighters increase containment of High Park Fire, they plan on sharing their resources with the other multiple fires burning along the Front Range. "We are going to help those folks out," Incident Commander Beth Lund said about coordinating the most effective use of fire resources.
However, the High Park Fire still has a long way to go and firefighters will continue to be aggressive with the blaze. "We will have the necessary retardant capability and aircraft to manage flare-ups," Air Operations Director Hugh Carson said. "We will continue to have dawn-to-dusk aircraft coverage over the incident."
1,125 firefighters continue to battle the blaze, a large number to be sure, but down from over 2,000 from just this last Monday.
Reporters were recently 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 20th day, firefighters battle the wildfire with the help of 6 helicopters, 79 fire engines and 9 dozers. The cost of the fire to date is $36.4 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.
Days of record heat 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 last weekend, all part of the worst wildfire season in a decade.
- Shorline Drive is also under a pre-evacuation. All residents previously evacuated are also still on a pre-evacuation alert.
- Evacuation orders remain in place for the following areas:
- Glacier View Filing 12.
- Pingree Park Road, Hourglass and Comanche reservoirs, east on Buckhorn Road up to and including Pennock Pass, NE to junction with Hwy 14; West to junction with Highway 14 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.
- Highway 14 (Poudre Canyon) from Mishawaka to Eggers.
- County Road 27 from Bent Timber Lane to Highway 14
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
BEFORE YOU GO
Associated Press National Wildfire Tracker: