The Cameron Peak fire, which has burned national forest land west of Fort Collins for three weeks, shot a giant plume of smoke 35,000 feet into the air Saturday as movement on the wildfire’s eastern edge spurred a series of new evacuations and warnings to residents.
Firefighting officials posted on Facebook on Saturday evening that “significantly increased fire activity” was not due to winds driving the wildfire, but primarily because of available fuels to burn.
Most of the new activity, they wrote, was to the east toward Brown’s Lake Trailhead, to the north/northwest along Green Ridge, and to the south.
The National Weather Service in Boulder reported Saturday that the smoke plume from the Cameron Peak fire rose to 35,000 feet — the cruising altitude of commercial airliners — at one point in the day.
Larimer County sheriff’s officials ordered the following new evacuations Saturday:
- Mandatory evacuation for anyone in the area along Highway 14 from the Fish Hatchery east to Kelly Flats
- Mandatory evacuation for the Pingree Park Road area from Highway 14 south to the housing district east of the CSU Mountain Campus
- Voluntary evacuation for the area of County Road 44H from Pennock Pass east to County Road 27, plus homes to the south using County Road 44H as access
- Voluntary evacuation for Crystal Lakes, Red Feather Lakes and the west side of the Manhattan Road from County Road 74E to Highway 14
- Voluntary evacuation for the area east of Pingree Park Road to Stove Prairie Road
Residents of homes and business occupants in areas under mandatory evacuation are urged to leave as quickly as possible “due to immediate and imminent danger.” People subject to voluntary evacuation notices should be ready to leave, but don’t have to yet, according to Larimer County sheriff’s officials.
As of Saturday evening, the wildfire had burned 24,464 acres, or about 38 square miles, since igniting Aug. 13 in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests about 15 miles southwest of Red Feather Lakes.
The fire is 6% contained, and its cause is still under investigation.
A red flag warning for the Boulder and Larimer county foothills will begin at midnight “due to breezy and dry weather expected to develop,” according to the National Weather Service. In much of the rest of northern Colorado, a red flag warning will begin 10 a.m. Sunday.
Hot and dry conditions are expected to continue around the Cameron Peak fire through Monday, with incident commanders warning of “near-critical fire weather conditions.”
Monday night into Tuesday, though, will bring a precipitous temperature drop, and the possibility of snow.
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