Cameron Peak Fire, state’s largest-ever wildfire, continues to grow
LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - The largest wildfire in Colorado history surpassed another milestone over the weekend and continues to grow.
Following an extremely active fire day Saturday, the Cameron Peak Fire burning in northern Colorado reached 200,000 acres, a number previously unheard of for a Colorado wildfire. Prior to 2020, the biggest wildfire in state history had burned 137,760 acres.
As of Thursday, the wildfire is 206,977 acres and 55 percent contained. Crews had gotten containment as high as 62 percent, but lost some of those gains when the fire blew up over the weekend. The loss in containment was due to the portion of the perimeter contained not keeping up with the growth on the fire. Officials working the Pine Gulch Fire over the summer gave the below explanation on how containment percentage works:
“Containment on a fire is measured by dividing the total length of the fire’s perimeter by the amount of that perimeter that is contained. That is why containment is shown as a percent – percent of the perimeter that is contained. As a fire grows, the length of the total perimeter will increase; if the section of that perimeter that is contained does not grow along with the total perimeter, that containment percentage will decrease.”
Despite the drop in containment and challenging conditions, firefighters took an optimistic tone, saying Tuesday night they were pleased with what had been accomplished.
“A lot of good work has been accomplished over the last several days. Incident Commander Dan Dallas said tonight this fire looks a whole lot different than it did two days ago,'” officials wrote on social media.
Increased smoke could be seen in the area Wednesday afternoon and evening, which firefighters said was due to East Troublesome Fire burning southwest of Rocky Mountain National Park. After more than quadrupling in size Wednesday, at its closest point the East Troublesome Fire is now burning just 10 miles from the Cameron Peak Fire.
Below is the most recent map of the fire Wednesday. The fire added a few hundred acres after this map was published:
The Cameron Peak Fire is burning west of Fort Collins and north of Rocky Mountain National Park. A “finger” of the fire has burned into the park. The fire started on the afternoon of Aug. 13, but the explosive growth didn’t start until Labor Day weekend, when in a three-day period the fire went from about 26,000 acres to over 100,000. A rare summer snow event immediately following those three days briefly provided relief, but since then, temperatures have soared and precipitation has been hard to come by.
After Labor Day, the fire continued to steadily add acreage before another major growth event on Oct. 14. Fueled by a perfect storm of fire conditions -- minimal humidity, strong winds with gusts up to 75-80 mph, extremely dry fuels -- the fire gained more than 20,000 acres in a single day and surpassed the Hayman and Pine Gulch fires to become the biggest in Colorado recorded history.
Until this summer, the Hayman Fire had stood as the state’s largest wildfire for 18 years.
Despite the challenges thrown at them, firefighters have made steady gains on containment since September. No containment has been lost despite the fire continuing to swell in size.
New evacuations continue to be ordered, primarily in recreational communities. A map of all evacuations and pre-evacuations can be viewed here.
According to Fort Collins newspaper The Coloradan, officials do not believe there is a serious possibility of the fire reaching Fort Collins or Estes Park but are still preparing for the worst-case scenario.
Fire officials are also confident the new CalWood fire, which sparked Saturday, will not significantly expand northward toward the Cameron Peak Fire or Larimer County.
A smoke outlook can be seen here. The wildfire has been a leading contributor of the smoke that has plagued the Front Range off and on for the last several weeks.
The top 10 fires in Colorado history are as followed:
Cameron Peak Fire (currently burning, 206,667 acres as of 10/22)
Pine Gulch (2020, 139,007 acres)
Hayman (2002, 137,760 acres)
East Troublesome Fire (currently burning, 125,677 acres as of 10/22)
Spring Creek (2018, 108,045 acres)
High Park (2012, 87,250 acres)
Missionary Ridge (2002, 71,739 acres)
416 Fire (2018, 52,778 acres)
Bridger (2008, 46,612 acres)
Last Chance (2012, 44,000 acres)
These fires are largest by acreage, not by property destruction and/or loss of life. The state has a separate ranking for the most destructive wildfires, of which the Black Forest Fire (2013, 14,280 acres) and Waldo Canyon Fire (2012, 18,247 acres) top.
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