More residents evacuated from near Colo. Wildfire
June 13, 2012
LOVELAND, Colo. (AP) — Firefighters made progress Tuesday in slowing down a northern Colorado wildfire blamed for one death and damage to more than 100 structures, even as more residents were evacuated.
The fire burning 15 miles west of Fort Collins was 10 percent contained Tuesday.
“We haven’t turned the corner yet, but we have made progress,” fire incident command spokesman Steve Segin said.
Even after the fire is fully contained, it could be the fall before flames are completely out, Segin said.
Also Tuesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a disaster declaration allocating $20 million for firefighting costs. Hickenlooper verbally approved the disaster declaration hours after the fire started Saturday and authorized the use of Colorado National Guard resources. He formally signed an executive order for both actions Tuesday.
The fire has cost about $3 million to fight so far.
The fire has forced hundreds of people from their homes. Some residents were allowed to return, but 25 new evacuation notices were issued Tuesday. Among those affected by the new evacuations were up to 100 people at a camp, plus Colorado State University’s mountain campus at Pingree Park, Sheriff Justin Smith said.
Some residents in the Poudre Canyon area have refused to leave. One even attempted a burnout operation near the resident’s home, which goes against the fire ban and puts fire crews at risk, said Nick Christensen, spokesman for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. He was not aware of any arrests or citations because of that.
Some evacuees fled with horses and goats in addition to cats and dogs but some weren’t able to round up their livestock before leaving. Horses and cattle left behind have been wandering around the fire zone, Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department chief Bob Gann told evacuees during a briefing.
Denise Haines said her family loaded up 142 alpacas and llamas with the help of friends and fled their 40-acre property early Sunday.
More than a dozen friends drove in with trailers in the predawn darkness and ferried the animals to the Larimer County fairgrounds, where they are kept in pens in a livestock barn.
“We see this big caravan of lights. Kind of gives you goose bumps,” she said of the evacuation. “The cavalry’s here.”
Haines said they got all of their herd plus all nine of their dogs and cats out safely.
“It was quite the rodeo — one, getting them loaded and two, getting them here,” she said.
A llama named Honey had given birth Saturday, and the youngster stumbled around her mother’s feet in a pen at the fairgrounds on Tuesday. Honey occasionally made a high-pitched humming noise, which Haines said was a reaction to stress.
“Honey, it’s OK,” she said.
Authorities confirmed Monday that one person died in the Colorado fire.
The family of Linda Steadman, 62, had reported her missing after the fire started Saturday, sheriff’s officials said. Her home received two evacuation notices that appeared to go to her answering machine, and a firefighter who tried to get past a locked gate to her home to warn her was chased out by flames, Sheriff Justin Smith said.
Investigators found remains in her burned home Monday that haven’t been positively identified yet, but her family issued a statement saying Steadman died in the cabin she loved.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama called Hickenlooper to get an update on the wildfire response and to express condolences about the losses. Hickenlooper has heard from incident commanders that they have enough resources, his spokesman Eric Brown said.
Wyoming State Forester Bill Crapser said poor forest conditions due to factors including drought, an epidemic of pine beetles ravaging trees and past years of fire suppression have increased high fire danger across the intermountain West.
Meanwhile, more people want to build their homes in the so-called wildland-urban interface between developed and undeveloped areas.
“I think people need to be responsible, and really think about if you are going to live in the interface, or out in the forest, that you have a responsibility to try to make your houses safe, and your property as safe as possible,” Crapser said. “That’s a tough thing to sell to a lot of people, because they move out there so they can have pine trees leaning over the top of their house. That’s part of the allure of it, but it’s also part of the danger of it.”
Evacuee Rick Budy, 54, an electrician and part-time farrier, said he’s lived in fire country all his life.
“It’s worth it to be able to walk outside and shoot a weapon,” said Budy, wearing a cowboy hat and boots.
Sheriff’s officials said Tuesday that a call reporting the Colorado fire Saturday came in around 6 a.m., and a crew “immediately” went to the area, arriving around 7:15 a.m. after taking winding, narrow roads. Volunteer firefighters were on the scene between 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., Christensen said
By 8 a.m. a single-engine air tanker was ordered. It arrived around 9 a.m.
“That hour turnaround is really good,” Segin said.