Snow brings relief to Cameron Peak Fire, dumping more than 8 inches on burn area
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (KKTV) - A rare summer snowstorm was welcome news at the site of Colorado’s fourth-biggest wildfire.
After gaining more than 75,000 acres in the span of just a few days, this week’s blast of winter stopped the raging wildfire in its tracks, dumping 8-14 inches of snow on the burn area and, temporarily at least, preventing further growth. As of Wednesday night, the Cameron Peak Fire remained 102,596 acres, the same as it did on the morning the cold front.
“Teams took advantage of this much-needed relief to evaluate the new perimeter of the fire in search of opportunities to build a hotline to contain the fire and keep it on its current footprint,” fire officials wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday evening.
One day prior to Tuesday’s front, the opposite was true: the blaze continued the explosive growth that had started over the weekend, blanketing the Front Range with thick, choking smoke.
The Cameron Peak Fire ignited Aug. 13, one of four major wildfires (Pine Gulch, Grizzly Creek, Williams Fork and Cameron Peak) that began burning across Colorado since the end of July. While firefighters have made significant gains on the Pine Gulch and Grizzly Creek fires in western Colorado, bringing them to 95 and 91 percent containment respectively, the Cameron Peak Fire remains just 4 percent contained. With the Pine Gulch Fire still active, this means two of the state’s four biggest fires ever are currently burning at the same time.
Together, the four fires have burned a collective 286,224 acres.
The explosive growth began over the weekend of Sept. 5-6, with record-breaking heat and dry conditions providing the perfect fuel for the nearly month-old fire, which before Saturday had burned 26,000 acres. By Sunday night, that number had more than doubled.
As the fire blow up over the weekend, ash began raining down across parts of northern Colorado.
Monday, the fire had nearly doubled again, going from just under 60,000 acres at the start of the day to more than 102,000 acres 24 hours later.
The relief is expected to be short-lived, as temperatures are expected to warm right back up starting Friday. Some evacuated families were allowed to go back home during the cold front, but they may have to re-evacuate after the chill moves out.
A map of current evacuations can be viewed by clicking here.
The most recent map can be seen here:
The wildfire shut down Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park Sunday due to heavy smoke and limited visibility. The fire continues to spread into the park, officials said Monday.
“The finger of the fire that has moved into Rocky Mountain National Park continued southeast as it progressed into the Cascade, Mummy and Hague Creek drainages,” an incident commander wrote on the official Facebook page.
The National Weather Service out of Boulder reported a smoke plume up to 35,000 feet at one point Saturday as the fire ballooned in size.
According to the Fort Collins Coloradan, residents of Fort Collins complained of ash in their neighborhoods Saturday. The Coloradan says there were also reports of ash falling in Greeley and as far south as the Denver metro.
The cause of the fire is under investigation but suspected of being human-caused.
Copyright 2020 KKTV. All rights reserved.