By Pamela Johnson with Loveland Reporter-Herald
Fire officials are expecting warm, windy weather Monday on both the Cameron Peak and Mullen fires, saying the winds may test their fire lines but hoping to keep the flames from spreading further.
The Cameron Peak Fire, which sparked in western Larimer County on Aug. 13, has burned 126,164 acres, making it the third largest fire in Colorado history behind the 2002 Hayman Fire and the still burning Pine Gulch fire. As of Sunday, it remained at 40% contained.
Fire crews worked by hand, with heavy equipment and with the help of air tankers over the weekend to strengthen barriers built to stop the spread of the fire, to douse areas of extreme fire heat to prevent more spread and to protect homes that are threatened by the fire.
So far, the fire has damaged or destroyed 99 structures, and evacuations and closures remain in place.
And with warmer temperatures and winds that could gust to 40 mph on Monday, the fire area was covered by a red flag warning from 9 p.m. Sunday through 7 p.m. Monday. An online fire report said these conditions are expected to “test” the work fire crews have completed along the eastern edge and the northeast corner of the fire, which have been the highest priority for containment recently. “We have some challenging weather coming up, which is going to test our fire and test our control lines,” John Norton-Jensen, planning operations trainee with the Northwest Incident Management Team, said in a recorded briefing on Sunday.
A second fire that sparked in Southern Wyoming on Sept. 17, has burned across the Colorado border in Jackson County and led to some evacuations there and in northwestern Larimer County. The Mullen Fire was reported at 140,140 acres and 11% contained on Sunday. Officials warned of a warming dry trend that will start on Monday that, with gusty winds, is expected to lead to active burning and significant fire spread.” Chip Redmond, incident meteorologist, said Sunday that the warmer, drier, windier conditions will continue on the Mullen Fire through the week.
“They’re still going to be cranking,” Redmond said in a recorded briefing. “They’re going to be gusting 30 even 35 mph, not on the fire but around the fire … The rest of week, its rinse, wash, repeat. I don’t see any reprieve this week.”
The winds from the Mullen Fire have carried the smoke throughout surrounding communities, including reaching both Loveland and Fort Collins. This is predicted to continue on Monday.
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