FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV)
UPDATE (8/3, 9:19 a.m.): The Hayden Pass Fire is now 60 percent contained.
This is just 5 percent off firefighters' goal of 65 percent. The remaining the 35 percent is in area firefighters can't reach, so firefighters are just going to let it burn itself out.
Officials say the fire experienced more activity Tuesday than it had in several days due to sunny skies and higher winds in the afternoon. Smoke could be seen in the same area it was visible on July 27, the last time there was a significant flareup.
The weather Wednesday and Thursday is expected to be wetter and cooler, with possible heavy ran Friday into the weekend.
UPDATE (7/27, 1:54 p.m.): Hotter, drier weather has caused the smoke to pick back up for the Hayden Pass Fire.
Officials say they were expecting this, and do not seem concerned at this time. They are monitoring the fire.
The fire reached 58 percent containment Wednesday morning, nearing firefighters' goal of 65 percent.
UPDATE (7/21, 12:55 p.m.): Ecstatic and relieved evacuees lined up at county roads 45 and 6 Thursday, waiting to finally go home.
The evacuees, who made up about half of the roughly 140 homes evacuated for the Hayden Pass Fire, were at last after a week and a half being allowed back in their houses for good. The other half were allowed home 48 hours earlier.
Residents expressed their gratitude towards firefighters and all of the agencies involved in the fire fight.
"Definitely one of the hardest experiences, but we definitely have to give thanks to the U.S. Forest Service, the sheriff's office for getting this done. They've busted their butts to get it done and we really appreciate it. Their hard work has not gone unnoticed," said Stephanie Jones, whose grandparents built her home in the 70s.
"I like the outdoors, I like camping, but I'm over it."
Jones said her home had some smoke damage, but is otherwise unscathed.
"I couldn't be happier," she said.
UPDATE (7/21, 5:35 a.m.): The remaining evacuees from the week-and-a-half-old Hayden Pass Fire will be back in their own beds Thursday night.
Officials are allowing them to return home starting at 8 a.m.
Firefighters continue to gain the upper hand on the fire, which remains at 16,414 acres. It reached 50 percent containment Wednesday afternoon.
Officials tell 11 News their goal for the fire is 65 percent containment. The remaining acreage is in harsh, hard-to-reach terrain, so firefighters are going to let it burn itself out.
The fire itself is expected to rage on well into fall, when firefighters believe snow will help snuff it out. But efforts fighting the fire are winding down.
The U.S. Forest Service says fire can actually be good for forests.
"These systems have become adapted to fire and even dependent on fire to create the situations where they can come in and do the things they need to do to keep propagating species," said Jeff Outhier, a forest technician with the San Isabel Forest.
UPDATE (7/20, 10:25 a.m.): Officials were all smiles at Wednesday's news conference as they acknowledged the Hayden Pass Fire was winding down.
The fire is expected to burn in rugged terrain until it begins snowing, but with half of the evacuees home and the other half returning Thursday, Incident Commander Jay Esperance acknowledged the more aggressive fire efforts were wrapping up.
The fire remains at 45 percent containment. Firefighters' goal is to get it to 65 percent containment, then let the remaining acreage, which is in harsh, hard-to-reach terrain, burn itself out.
UPDATE (7/19, 5 p.m.):
As of 5 p.m., the fire is now 45 percent contained and has burned some 16, 414 acres.
UPDATE (7/19, 10:12 a.m.): The remaining evacuees will get to return home Thursday, Fremont County Sheriff Jim Beicker announced Tuesday.
Half of the evacuees were allowed to return home Tuesday morning. Beicker announced during Tuesday's media briefing that the rest of the roughly 140 households would be allowed to go home at 8 a.m. Thursday.
The fire remains at 35 percent containment, but a spokesperson with Incident Command expected more containment at the end of the day. The fire perimeter map remains unchanged from Monday:
Officials said the fuel and weather conditions had both turned favorable over the last few days, allowing firefighters to turn a corner on containment. Terrain, the third challenge firefighters said they've faced, of course remains rugged and unchanged.
UPDATE (7/19, 8:38 a.m.): An air quality health advisory for Fremont County will be allowed to expire at 9 Tuesday morning.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the combination of lighter winds and higher humidity has kept smoke down, but did predict periods of moderate to heavy smoke for locations near the fire on Tuesday. The smoke is expected to be pushed towards the towns of Coaldale, Cotopaxi, Texas Creek and Howard.
UPDATE (7/19, 5:03 a.m.): Thanks to significant gains in containment over the weekend, more than half of all evacuees are getting to return home ahead of schedule.
Last week when the Hayden Pass Fire still stood at zero containment, officials overseeing the fire said it could be seven to 14 days before evacuated residents would return home. After reaching 30 percent containment Monday morning (a number that has since gone up even higher, to 35), officials lifted evacuations for the following:
-People who live along County Road 1A
-Eagle Peak subdivision
-County Road 40
-Fox Creek subdivision
The evacuees will not be permitted to return home until 8 a.m., and must obtain a pass to show deputies in order to pass the roadblocks into their neighborhoods. The road closures will not be lifted for the general public.
Residents who did not get a pass Monday can go to Cotopaxi High School between 8 a.m. and noon Tuesday.
UPDATE (7/18, 8:30 p.m.): As of Monday evening, the Hayden Pass Fire is 35 percent contained. There are nearly 850 fire personnel that remain on scene fighting the fire.
The next news conference is expected at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
UPDATE (7/18, 10:02 a.m.): Crews continue to make progress fighting the wildfire.
The fire is 30 percent contained, but that number is expected to go up. They will be releasing 13 engines Monday because they have completed their missions.
The Fremont County Sheriff says that some people will be able to return back to their homes beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday. This includes people who live along County Road 1A, Eagle Peak Subdivision, Mosher Creek, County Road 40 and the Fox Creek Subdivision. Those people need to go to Cotopaxi High School beforehand to get information about returning home, which includes a pass to get into their neighborhood. Residents can go Monday from 4 p.m.- 8 p.m. or Tuesday from 8 a.m.- noon.
People who live along County Road 6 will not be able to return home yet, but should still go to Cotopaxi High School for more information.
UPDATE (7/17, 5:44 p.m.):
The fire is now 30 percent contained.
UPDATE (7/17, 10:23 a.m.): The Hayden Pass Fire is now at 16,350 acres with 20 percent containment. Eight hundred and sixteen personnel are working on the fire.
Fire crews plan to stop using the engines on the fire starting Monday because of containment gained on the fire.
Structure protection is complete at this time.
The sheriff's office is planning to allow evacuated families back into their homes. It's not clear when that will happen
UPDATE (7/16, 10:32 p.m.): The fire incident command team says that the fire is now 20 percent contained.
They say, "Hand lines have been built along the edge of the wilderness. Communication tower protection was completed by clearing defensible space around this important site. Firefighters conducted burnout operations along the north flank’s Hayden Pass road and continued building indirect line to keep the fire south of Coaldale. Helispots were established along the eastern flank, reducing helicopter flight time. Firefighters built indirect line along the southern flank’s Lake Creek road. Crews continue to monitor the fire’s slow progression within the western flank’s wilderness area."
Evacuations remain the same. We expect an update on the fire at a news conference scheduled for Sunday at 10 a.m.
UPDATE (7/16, 10:34 a.m.): Fire officials walked back on the previously released size of 16,222 acres, and said in a Saturday morning news conference that the fire was 16,204 acres.
They expect increased smoke during the day due to Red Flag conditions.
Firefighters were feeling upbeat about structure protection, telling the media that homes have all been made as fire-safe as possible with sprinkler systems attached. Crews expect to complete structure protection by the end of Saturday.
UPDATE (7/16, 9 a.m.): The Hayden Pass Fire is now 16,222 acres, up from a previous estimate of 15,759.
Seven hundred and sixty-eight firefighters are working the fire.
UPDATE (7/16, 7:02 a.m.): Firefighters made significant headway in the fire Friday, reaching some containment for the first time since the fire broke out.
The fire is now 5 percent contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service, and 15,759 acres.
Officials say Saturday will be extremely dry, with humidity in the single digits. Wind gusts are expected up to 25 mph. The area will be under a Red Flag warning.
A news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. 11 News will be carrying that live on KKTV and kktv.com.
UPDATE (7/15, 6:21 p.m.:) Colorado Emergency Management officials said in a tweet the Howard Fire Department is no longer accepting donations.
"There are no needs at this time. Thank you," the tweet said.
UPDATE (7/15, 12:45 p.m.:)
UPDATE (7/15, 12:07 p.m.): The Fremont County Sheriff's Office and Colorado State Patrol says they will issue tickets for people stopping or standing on Highway 50.
This includes standing on the shoulder on private property.
"This is a safety issue, as Highway 50 is extremely hazardous," a spokesperson for Incident Command said Friday.
Earlier in a morning news conference, fire officials spoke about how dangerous Highway 50 was becoming for firefighters.
"We have had a perfect safety record, which is amazing considering the high dangers," Incident Commander Jay Esperance said at the news conference. "But we are very nervous about the traffic on Highway 50. Please go slow."
UPDATE (7/15, 10:23 a.m.): Fire officials had an optimistic tone as they addressed the media Friday.
Jim Fitz with U.S. Forest Service said they were feeling much better than they were just four days ago.
"Now that we have 600-plus firefighters, and we also have a night shift."
There's still no containment, but fire officials said their round-the-clock efforts had yielded progress, especially with structure protection.
"Everything is coming together well. [We're] confident in structure protection on east side of fire," Fitz said.
Firefighters have been spending significant time on structures de-limbing trees and making sure sprinkler systems are in place. Fitz said that work has taken three days.
Officials said it would be at least a week, possibly two, before evacuees might be able to go home.
The fire did grow a 1,000 acres since the last estimate, and is now 15,754 acres.
Incident commander Jay Esperance implored the public to drive slow on Highway 50, for firefighters' sake.
"We are very nervous about the traffic on Highway 50," Esperance said.
UPDATE (7/15, 6:46 a.m.): Wind and cooler temperatures allowed firefighters to get more controlled burns done on Thursday. This will allow them to better control where the fire goes. Crews are expecting the fire to grow, mostly in the Mosher Creek area.
Fire officials said Thursday their number one priority outside of firefighter and public safety was protecting homes and private property. The Fremont County sheriff says firefighters have done such a good job protecting evacuees' homes that he will allow residents to return home for two hours Friday morning to get things they may need. That begins at 8 a.m., and only applies to evacuees living on county roads 6 and 40, and Fox Creek Drive.
UPDATE (7/14, 9:53 p.m.):
A public meeting is planned Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Longfellow Elementary School on 350 W. 8th St. in Salida.
Officials will be providing updates on the fire.
In addition, many evacuees were expected to be allowed to return home to get other possessions for several hours Friday.
The next news conference was scheduled for 10 a.m.
UPDATE (7/14, 2:31 p.m.): If you would like to make a donation to fire evacuees, you can do so at radio station KLRN, 1615 Central Avenue in Canon City.
UPDATE (7/14, 2:09 p.m.): Fremont County Road 1A south from Highway 50 to Highway 69 is closed in both directions for all vehicle and foot traffic.
"This is for public safety as an influx of people are starting to stop, park, and walk around on County Road 1A causing a huge safety hazard," the Fremont County Sheriff's Office said.
In addition, they reminded everyone there is no stopping along Highway 50 between Howard and Cotopaxi for picture taking.
"People who are stopped at the recreation pull offs and business are fine," the sheriff's office said.
Colorado State Patrol Troopers are also in the area.
UPDATE (7/14, 12:27 p.m.): The fire has grown to nearly 15,000 acres.
UPDATE (7/14, 10:37 a.m.): Some evacuees may get the chance to return home temporarily, the Fremont County sheriff said Thursday.
The sheriff was speaking at a news briefing Thursday morning.
The offer only extends to those living on County Road 6, County Road 40 and Fox Creek Drive. Other evacuated areas are too dangerous at this time, the sheriff said. Occupants will ideally be allotted two hours in their homes, though the sheriff said that could change if fire officials disagree. It's tentatively scheduled for 8 a.m.
Those wishing to return home Friday need to sign up at their subdivision entrances Thursday.
With the new evacuations Wednesday night, around 140 homes are currently evacuated, the sheriff said.
UPDATE (7/14, 7:43 a.m.): Updated map of the fire perimeter as of 7 p.m. Wednesday.
UPDATE (7/14, 5:01 a.m.): Firefighters tell 11 News they are allowing the Hayden Pass Fire to move slowly towards homes and buildings, so that it's burning as much fuel as it can. Once it reaches what officials are calling a "trigger point," firefighters will begin to take action -- that way, the fire has no more fuel to burn.
Seven helicopters were brought in to do water drops Wednesday, which firefighters say did help in the Hayden Pass and Big Cotton drainage areas.
A tanker plane was also brought in Wednesday and dropped slurry on parts of the fire.
The fire remains on Forest Service land.
UPDATE (7/13, 4:21 p.m.): Fire officials say the Hayden Pass Fire has grown to 12,836 acres, as of Wednesday evening. It remains zero percent contained.
This is up from an estimate of 12,800 acres released at the 10 a.m. news conference.
UPDATE (7/13, 4:21 p.m.): New mandatory evacuations are in place for the Hayden Pass Fire. County Rd 35 and The Eagle Peak Subdivision on the West Side of County Road 1A.
UPDATE (7/13, 2:21 p.m.): The first structure has been lost in the Hayden Pass Fire, the Fremont County Sheriff's Office told 11 News on Wednesday.
The cabin, which was considered a summer home, was burned in the Cottonwood drainage area.
UPDATE (7/13, 12:27 p.m.): The Red Cross released more information Wednesday afternoon about the support they are giving evacuees:
Red Cross continues to support this partner shelter. Members of the Howard FD and Howard FD Auxiliary have been working the shelter with Red Cross providing support as needed. Overnight 3 people stayed at the shelter in Howard. There is a community meeting at the Howard Fire Department at 7:00 P.M. so that people can ask questions. The shelter is located at the Howard Volunteer Fire Department, 8274 US-50.
A shelter has been opened in Westcliffe, CO to help evacuees from the Rainbow Lutheran Camp. This was a precautionary evacuation of about 180 campers. The shelter is located at Custer County High School, 709 Main St. Westcliffe, CO. This shelter is for the campers only and is supported by Custer County Medical Reserve Corps and the Red Cross.
UPDATE (7/13, 10:18 a.m.):
The Hayden Pass Fire has gobbled up hundreds more acres since the last acreage estimate, and is now nearly 13,000 acres.
Kyle Sullivan with the Bureau of Land Management addressed the media Wednesday morning. Little had changed since the previous update: no new evacuation orders, no containment on the fire and no end in sight.
"This is expected to be a long-term event," Sullivan said, "especially in the wilderness."
Sullivan said they aren't expecting any containment Wednesday, but are hoping to get fire lines built near Coaldale during the next few days. The fire is burning within a quarter- to half-mile of some homes.
UPDATE (7/13, 7:02 a.m.):
Meteorologist Emily Roehler says the thickest smoke and haze from the Hayden Pass Fire should keep west Wednesday with south-southeast for the I-25 corridor.
UPDATE (7/13, 6:06 a.m.): Cooler temperatures and lighter winds could help firefighters with their efforts Wednesday, but officials are still expecting a pretty active fire day.
The big goal for firefighters Wednesday is creating a containment line that will push the fire into an old burn scar.
John Peterson, a spokesman for the firefighters working the fire, said that while the community of Coaldale could still take a direct hit, the fire is starting to trend east. A far less dire prediction than what Incident Command originally projected for Tuesday, having stated early that morning that the fire was projected to reach Coaldale within 24 hours.
Incident Command walked back on the projection by mid-day Tuesday.
No homes are directly threatened yet. The northern edge of the fire is heading towards a line of buildings located a couple miles away from Highway 50, but is still about 2 miles away. Crews have spent the past several days working to make sure those homes are protected.
Helicopters were used Tuesday to help slow the growth of the fire, which at last estimate had only grown modestly between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon. A new size estimate is expected later Wednesday morning.
UPDATE (7/12 6 p.m..): The Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp has been evacuated Tuesday evening.
Roughly 190 people are affected. The camp is located on the border of Custer and Fremont counties.
Evacuees are being brought to the Custer County School. In the meantime, crews are working to bring school buses to evacuate everyone.
Parents should call 719-783-2270 for information on their campers.
UPDATE (7/12 5:40 p.m): Fire crews said late Tuesday the Hayden Pass Fire only slightly grew Tuesday, giving a new estimate of 12,193 acres. The fire remains zero percent contained.
UPDATE (7/12 11:17 a.m.): There is still no containment on the Hayden Pass Fire, which officials say has grown beyond the previous estimate of 12,012 acres.
Kyle Sullivan with Bureau of Land Management updated the media Tuesday morning in a news conference at the Coaldale Community Center.
The piece of good news: no structures have been lost to the fire. The fire is also now projected to grow towards the east, so incident command has walked back on their earlier projection that the fire could reach Coaldale in the next 12-24 hours. A spokesperson at the command center stressed that there is still a risk that the fire could reach the town, but that "we don't know for sure."
The evacuation lines have not changed, but Sullivan advised everyone under a pre-evacuation order to "be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice."
An evacuation center has been set up at the Howard Firefighting Center for anyone who needs assistance from Salvation Army or Red Cross.
UPDATE (7/12, 8:50 a.m.):
UPDATE (7/12, 8:38 a.m.): Officials are projecting that the Hayden Pass Fire will continue to move towards the town of Coaldale, possibly reaching it sometime over the next day.
Projected fire activity: Fire will progress North and Northeast into community of Coaldale with the next 12-24 hours. Massive evacuations took place today. Road closures are in effect. Possible closures of Highway 50 could take place. Threats to critical T&E species (Green Back Cutthroat Trout).
UPDATE (7/12, 5:41 a.m.): Calm winds and cool morning temperatures are keeping the Hayden Pass Fire at bay Tuesday morning.
The fire continues to burn a few miles from the town of Coaldale, but is not threatening any homes. One hundred and nine homes have been evacuated as a precaution in case the fire continues to grow at the speed it has. The fire doubled in size since Monday afternoon.
UPDATE (7/11, 9 p.m.): The fire burning in Fremont County 40 miles west of Canon City is now more than 12,000 acres, officials said Monday evening.
As of Monday night, 109 homes have been evacuated, along with 80 animals.
No structures have been lost in the fire, which reignited on Sunday.
A calmer night was expected, although there could still be some fire activity, officials said.
UPDATE (7/11, 5:30 p.m.): Fire officials say the fire is now more than 10,000 acres. Because of winds, and dead trees, the fire has nearly doubled in size to the east since Sunday, officials said.
Officials are also urging people that are in the mandatory evacuation areas to evacuate, for safety of firefighters and residents.
For comparison, this fire is 16 times the size of the fire burning in Boulder County.
The next update was scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
UPDATE (7/11, 3:01 p.m.:) Multiple people on Twitter and Facebook say ash is now falling in Canon City and Florence from the fire.
UPDATE (7/11, 1:04 p.m.:) The Hayden Pass Fire has now grown to 7,500 acres, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The Forest Service says hot and windy conditions have fueled the flames.
UPDATE (7/11, 12:01 p.m.): Here are the latest evacuations as of noon Monday:
UPDATE (7/11, 11:30 a.m.): The Hayden Pass Fire has grown "significantly," officials said in a news conference Monday morning.
A new size was not available at the time of the conference because an aircraft was still flying over getting an estimate. But officials guess the size is well over the 5,100 it was Sunday night.
Mandatory evacuations have expanded to all of County Road 40. Fox Creek subdivision is included in the evacuation order. This order is effective immediately.
Anyone on County Road 6 south of County Road 40 was put on a mandatory evacuation at 7 a.m. Monday. Officials said 15-20 people opted not to evacuate when the order went into effect. Officials asked those who choose not to evacuate to remain on their property.
The fire is burning about a half-mile from the Hayden campground, and is on rugged, steep terrain that is making firefighting difficult. Officials said the fire is could burn for awhile.
UPDATE (7/11, 8:19 a.m.): Mandatory evacuations went into effect as of 7 a.m.
UPDATE (7/11, 6:51 a.m.): After an active overnight, firefighters are expecting the Hayden Pass Fire to be significantly bigger once they complete their new estimate.
As of 11 p.m. Sunday, the fire, which is burning in southwest Fremont County, was 5,100 acres.
The number of scorched acres is expected to continue to swell Monday, due to a perfect storm of fire conditions: strong winds, hot temperatures and low humidity. The area where the fire is located is under a red flag warning Monday.
Kyle Sullivan with the Bureau of Land Management told 11 News 25 firefighters monitored the fire overnight.
The fire is burning exclusively on U.S. Forest Service land, on rugged, hard-to-reach terrain. Two helicopters are on standby for potential water drops Monday.
No homes are threatened at this time, but the speed of the fire's growth Sunday and the equally poor conditions Monday have left officials concerned about waiting too long on evacuations. Sullivan told 11 News that a number of elderly people and people with large animals live relatively near where the fire is burning. Mandatory evacuations were put in place at 7 a.m. Monday to give residents plenty of time to get away while the fire is still at safe distance.
Lightning is suspected as the cause of the fire.
UPDATE (7/10, 10:51 p.m.): There are now mandatory evacuations underway for those who live on County Road 6 south of County Road 45 in Coaldale. That mandatory evacuation starts at 7 a.m. Monday.
Anyone in the Coaldale area near County Road 6 and the Fox Creek subdivision are on a pre-evacuation status due to potential increased fire activity on Monday.
People with large animals can go to the Chaffee County Fairgrounds.
PREVIOUS (7/10, 9:26 p.m.): A fire that began Friday in Fremont County has flared again on Sunday, and has now ballooned to more than 5,100 acres as of 8 p.m.
The fire is burning on U.S. Forest Service land south and east of Hayden Pass, with a large portion burning in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. It is being fueled by trees that have been killed by beetles.
In a tweet Sunday evening, officials said the fire was burning in mixed conifer and "is currently very active." Flames as high as 100 feet have been reported.
There are no immediate threats to people or homes as of 8:40 p.m., but the Hayden Creek Campground, also known as Cutty's, was evacuated on Sunday as a precaution.
There are, however, about 150 homes on pre-evacuation notice, as of late Sunday.
An infrared flight was scheduled to go over the fire between Sunday evening and Monday morning. Crews also planned to begin structure protection, in order to minimize future potential loss of homes or buildings.
The cause of the fire is not known.
The next update is scheduled for Monday around 5 or 6 a.m., officials said.