Breaking news, 4:10pm – The City of Boulder has issued a warning to some of its residents to be prepared to evacuate should activity on the Fourmile Canyon Fire increase. Winds have been increasing throughout the day and higher speeds are forecast throughout tonight and tomorrow morning.
In the announcement on the city’s website, Boulder urges residents north of Spruce Street and west of Broadway to “remain vigilant and prepare for possible evacuations.”
“We are certainly hoping for the best, but as a city, we are doing the very things we would urge residents to do – staying vigilant and planning for the worst,” City Manager Jane S. Brautigam said in a statement.
The city has started to implement mitigation, evacuation and other emergency plans into action. Employees are mowing grass on the western edge to reduce the fuels available for a fire.
They urge all residents to prepare their properties for a possible fire and to ensure they are ready to leave on short notice. For more information, please see here.
Winds in the fire area are expected to stay out of the west and move the fire toward the east and northeast. This is the same area officials said earlier today they were going to be focusing the aerial assault on.
Sustained winds of 15 to 25 mph are forecast with gusts in excess of 40 mph from now through tomorrow evening. Already low humidities are expected to plummet into the teens after midnight.
The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning that is in effect until 6:00pm Friday for “dangerous fire conditions.”
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Breaking news update, 1:10pm – With wind speeds picking up in the Fourmile Canyon Fire area, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office is re-evacuating areas that residents had been allowed back in to this morning.
As of 12:30pm officials closed access to residents in the Boulder Heights, Pine Brook Hills, Carriage Hills, Olde Stage Road, and Lee Hill Drive areas. Those that are already in the area are being asked to leave by 2:00pm under a mandatory evacuation order.
As we discussed in our morning weather forecast, high winds were expected to return this afternoon and when coupled with low humidities and increasing temperatures it creates the potential for an increase in fire activity.
The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for the foothills that includes Gold Hill and the entire burn area of the Fourmile Canyon Fire. The service warns of conditions that “will lead to critical fire danger.”
Updated, 9:53am – The number of homes destroyed by the Fourmile Canyon Fire continues to grow cementing the blaze’s place in the history books as Colorado’s most destructive fire in terms of homes lost. At a morning briefing officials announced that 169 homes have been destroyed by the blaze.
The newly released number reflects an increase of 30 additional homes known to have been destroyed over the count released Wednesday night. Boulder County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Rick Brough said crews have surveyed approximately 80% of the burn area to obtain the latest count.
- In pictures – View the slideshow below for the latest images of the Fourmile Canyon Fire
- Click here for the complete list of addresses with known losses
Laura McConnell with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team said that there has been a good deal of progress fighting the fire and it is now 30% contained. Most of that progress is via line construction along the south and southeast side.
Infrared mapping flights have put the number of acres burned at 6,365 acres. 550 firefighters and personnel are now on site and actively working. 160 more personnel have arrived and will soon be deployed.
The news of some containment is encouraging however officials warn that significant winds are forecasted for later this afternoon and evening and that may change conditions very quickly.
Rob Bozeman, a local firefighter working the lines as a field observer, warned that “With the wind event to the night we could be off to the races. The Vietnam veteran said, “It takes one spark outside the lines.”
Aerial assets including slurry bombers and helicopters will be targeting the northeast side of the fire today – the side believed most vulnerable with the wind that is expected.
Brough said that the plan to let evacuees from the Boulder Heights, Pinebrook Hills and Carriage Hills subdivisions back into the area at 10:00am will proceed.
If weather conditions permit, officials will be opening additional areas at 2:00pm. These would include the Sunshine Canyon area from Boulder Canyon to Poor Man and the Lefthand Canyon area. Lefthand Canyon remains closed from the south so residents seeking access need to come from the north.
Officials said that those that are allowed in are asked to only check on their property and get what they need and then re-evacuate. With the weather forecast this afternoon and evening looking troublesome, Brough said they were, “concerned about the wind conditions coming in.”
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Please scroll down for earlier updates and more information. Be sure to check out the slideshow at the bottom.
Original story, 7:35am – The list of destroyed homes from the Fourmile Canyon Fire burning northwest of Boulder now number 135 making it the most destructive in Colorado history. The blaze which started Monday continues to burn and while much work is yet to be done some progress has been made in the battle.
The latest list of losses released by Boulder County is nothing short of extraordinary. 139 structures are listed as total losses and 24 are listed as damaged. Of those destroyed entirely, 135 are homes ensuring the Fourmile Canyon Fire goes into the history books as having destroyed more homes than any fire in state history.
The 2002 Hayman Fire destroyed 133 homes but was more devastating in terms of acreage burned as that blaze scorched 137,760 acres. Boulder County’s previous worst fire, the 1989 Black Tiger Fire, destroyed 44 homes and 2,086 acres.
Officials have said that the count may very well increase as they work to get into areas where the fire is still actively burning. 6,388 acres have been burned by the blaze so far and 800 homes are within the 8,000 acre evacuation zone.
Fire becomes nation’s top firefighting priority
Cooler weather and some rain in parts of the burn area provided much needed relief on Wednesday. Firefighters were able to work on fire lines and aircraft were actively making water and retardant drops.
More than 550 firefighters with 75 engines from 55 agencies were on the lines battling the blaze with yet more expected to arrive. Using picks and shovels crews have completed a fire line on the east side of the blaze.
Seven of the nation’s 19 heavy air tankers are working the blaze and dropped 100,000 gallons of retardant. Two more tankers arrive today and will join those already on site and five helicopters and other support aircraft.
The National Interagency Fire Center said the Fourmile Canyon Fire is now the nation’s top firefighting priority. Today a transition from a Type II Incident Management Team to a Type I Team – the highest possible – will take place. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has declared a state of emergency for the area.
No containment has been reported for the fire. Incident Commander Tom Smith said it could be 10 days before full containment is achieved and that is highly variable.
Some evacuees to be allowed to return home today
Federal, state and local fire officials held a public meeting last night at the Coors Event Center on the C.U. Boulder campus and said that enough progress had been made that some residents will be allowed back home.
Barring any change in conditions, at 10:00am residents in the Boulder Heights, Pinebrook Hills and Carriage Hills subdivisions will be allowed to return to their properties. Also being allowed to return are residents with houses east of Olde Stage Road and Lee Hill Road.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle told the hundreds gathered at the meeting that while progress has been made, much was yet to be done and the fire still remained volatile. He warned those that are allowed to return that they need to be prepared to evacuate again should the fire return to their area.
“We are dealing with a very large, very chaotic and very unpredictable situation,” Pelle said. “You need to make sure you are ready to go again.”
For those in the Sunshine Canyon and Sugarloaf areas, the waiting continues as firefighters deem those areas unsafe to allow residents to return. Officials explained that in addition to the still-active fire power lines remain down across much of the area and fire-weakened trees present hazards.
Complete coverage of the Fourmile Canyon Fire
- Denver Weather Examiner main page
- Colorado Governor Bill Ritter declares state of emergency for Fourmile Canyon Fire
- List of homes destroyed by Fourmile Canyon Fire in Boulder released
- Fourmile Canyon Fire Day 1 – Fourmile Canyon wildfire burns structures, forces evacuations west of Boulder
- Fourmile Canyon Fire Day 2 – Fourmile Canyon Fire continues to burn as firefighters try to gain upper hand
- Fourmile Canyon Fire Day 3 – Fourmile Canyon Fire claims dozens of homes, continues to rage west of Boulder
- In pictures – Fourmile Canyon Fire burns thousands of acres in Colorado mountains
- Video – Explosion of Fourmile Canyon Fire captured on video
- Video – Stunning video captures nighttime burning of Boulder, Colorado wildfire