(On June 11 we posted an update on the High Park fire, which you can see HERE.)
The High Park fire northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado was very active Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Judging from the heat data collected by satellites as shown in the map above, it moved north across Highway 14 and hit the Hewlett fire that burned north of the highway in mid-May. The heat data indicates that it spread east to within approximately a mile of N CO Rd 25E and approximately a mile from the intersection of highways 14 and 287, but these are very crude estimates. And another estimate — the fire appears to us to be more than 20,000 acres if the satellite heat data is accurate. All of this needs to be confirmed by better data than we are getting from a satellite.
A more detailed version of the map of the High Park fire can be downloaded HERE.
To say the fire exhibited extreme fire behavior overnight would not be giving the fire enough credit. Several very experienced firefighters have said the fire’s spread and behavior Saturday night and early Sunday were incredible. Typically a fire will lay down at night, moving much more slowly, but as a cold front passed through the area during the night the winds increased and shifted 45 degrees in direction, WSW to WNW. When the fire was mapped at 10:30 p.m. Saturday night by an infrared aircraft it was 7,400 acres. The MODIS satellite data shown in the map above captured the location of the heat at 3:20 a.m., and unless it was registering the heat in the smoke plume in addition to heat on the ground (which has happened in the past with infrared equipment on fixed wing aircraft when a fire was exhibiting extreme fire behavior), the fire more than doubled in size during that 5-hour period and ran approximately 6 miles. It will be very interesting to see a new fire perimeter after aircraft map it today with GPS equipment.
The local fire and law enforcement personnel are doing a good job of providing information to the public about the fire and evacuations:
(On June 11 we posted an update on the High Park fire which you can see HERE.)
UPDATE at 7:39 a.m. MT, June 10, 2012:
We have an updated map of the High Park Fire HERE.
UPDATE at 8:32 p.m. MT, June 9, 2012:
The High Park fire west of Fort Collins Colorado has burned or damaged at least 10 structures and approximately 5,000 acres. Many residents have been evacuated and 800 pre-evacuation notifications were sent out within the last few hours when the fire, burning from west to east, crossed County Road 27 south of the Stove Prairie School.
A Type 2 Incident Management team is responding and a Type 1 IMTeam was ordered late this afternoon.
Firefighters are worried about communication equipment and radio repeaters out ahead of the fire on Buckhorn Mountain. If the equipment there burns, it could have a negative effect on the radio communications on the fire. They were hoping to get some air tankers to drop some long term retardant around the site before dark, but it is unknown if they were able to get that done. There are three heavy air tankers working the fire, two CV 580s and one P2V.
The National Wildfire Coordinating Group has released an app for the South Canyon Staff Ride. On July 6, 1994, 14 firefighters lost their lives on the fire 7 miles west of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
As you may know, a staff ride is usually a guided tour at the site of a significant wildfire, with programmed stops and talking points. The objective is to explore lessons learned. The intent of the app, according to “Rob N.”, an Instructional Media Illustrator for NWCG Training who coded the app, is to familiarize and prepare individuals prior to visiting the site.
In using the app, when you touch one of the numbered stand locations on the map, it takes you to a photo of the area along with some text about what happened at that location.
The version that was just released is on the Google Play site and is for Android devices (smart phones and tablets). They expect to develop a version for Apple devices in the near future.
This version is a Beta release and is a little rough around the edges. On my Samsung Galaxy Nexus, running Android 3.0.8, I had trouble getting some of the navigation buttons to respond, and it took me a while to figure out how to get the text to scroll until I found an almost hidden scroll bar. The photos are extremely low resolution, and “Rob” told us that they will be replaced when they move past the Beta version.
The developers hope to receive input and suggestions for improvement from Beta testers. According to the Google Play site, about a half dozen copies have been dowloaded as of May 21. It can cost thousands of dollars to have a professional developer write the code for an app, but this was done in-house in about a week.
We applaud the NWCG, stepping boldly into the future present, developing an app. We’ll reserve judgement on the usefulness of this particular endeavor until it comes out of Beta and is tested by actual users seeking lessons learned.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has posted the much-requested “current verified list of structures damaged by the Lower North Fork fire“, as well as a map. All local home owners with confirmed damaged properties have been escorted to their property by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. There are two homeowners who have not made it back to their property because they are coming from out of the area.
There was no perimeter growth today. The size remains at 4,140 acres and they are calling it 45% contained.
As of Thursday morning, the Lower North Fork fire southeast of Conifer, Colorado is 15% contained and has burned 4,140 acres. The number of homes damaged or destroyed remains at 27. The owners of 26 of the structures have been notified. Rich Harvey’s Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire at 6:00 a.m. today. The local Type 3 IMTeam will continue to work with the Type 1 team.
The map of the Lower North Fork fire below shows the perimeter (in red) as of 9:39 Wednesday night.
On Wednesday there were two large air tankers assigned, P2Vs, Tankers #44 and #45, but they were removed from the fire late in the afternoon and redeployed to the Apple fire south of Custer, South Dakota. (We were at the Apple fire yesterday.) There will be four National Guard Blackhawk helicopters assigned to the Lower North Fork fire today. Four helicopters dropped 49,000 gallons of water yesterday.
Residents seeking information about the status of their property within the fire evacuation zone may come to the Conifer High School, but the school is closed to the general public.
With the apparent cause of the fire being an escaped prescribed fire that was managed by the Colorado Forest Service, on Wednesday Deputy State Forester Joe Duda issued a statement that reads in part:
We want to express our deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and those who have lost property, and we hope for the safety of crews as they continue to fight the fire.
On Wednesday the governor of Colorado suspended the use of prescribed burns by state agencies.
It is very early in the year, and early in the wildfire season, but already firefighters are competing for aerial and hand crew resources. There are not enough to go around, and they are not deployed where the fires are occurring. This is due in part to the diminishing budgets of the firefighting agencies, translated as fewer firefighters, and mismanagement of the federal air tanker fleet.
Other articles on Wildfire Today about the Lower North Fork fire:
Four Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff officers were trapped in the Lower North Fork wildfire on March 26, 2011, southwest of Denver, but they escaped eventually, unhurt. This is an audio recording of some of the radio traffic from that incident, courtesy of 9news who got it from a scanner feed.
Click on the green arrow to listen to the recording.
(We will update this throughout the day on March 28 as developments occur.)
UPDATE at 12:30 p.m. MT, March 28, 2012
The reported size of the fire has been changed from 4,500 to 3,790 acres. This latest size was calculated from an infrared mapping flight that occurred at 10:30 p.m. on March 27.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s office has reduced the number of damaged structures from 28 to 27. One of the recorded addresses was not accurate.
We have an audio recording of radio traffic from an incident that occurred on March 26 on the fire when four Jefferson County Sheriff officers were entrapped in the fire. They escaped unhurt, but the audio is gripping.
The Denver Post has some fascinating video that was shot by residents driving out of the fire. They said they did not receive a reverse 911 phone call warning.
UPDATE at 9:23 a.m. March 28, 2012
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has updated their map of the fire with data from 8:20 p.m., March 27. The fire perimeter in red. The blue line is the evacuation area as of 2:00 p.m. on March 27. We expect they will give us an updated acreage later.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office released some updated information at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday:
Overnight the fire was relatively stable. Fire crews made progress through the night in protecting structures. Today’s strategy is to gain containment around the fire while continuing to protect structures.
Today’s fire behavior is expected to be similar to yesterday but with slightly higher winds. The winds could result in more robust fire activity. The fire will also most likely become more intense as the temperature rises throughout the day. The fire has continued to exhibit a tendency to start spot fires in a wide area.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office will continue to man road blocks around the fire perimeter. At this time we are not allowing anyone back into the evacuated regions.
The Sheriff’s Office said the estimated size is still 4,500 acres and that 28 structures have been damaged.
The Lower North Fork fire that is southwest of Denver and seven miles southeast of Conifer, Colorado, was relatively quiet during the night. The last official acreage that was released by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office for the wildfire was 4,500, and they reported that 23 homes have been damaged. An elderly couple was found dead near their home and one resident within the burn area is missing.
The map of the fire shows the fire perimeter in red, as of 11:00 p.m. on March 26. The blue line is the evacuation area as of 2:00 p.m. on March 27. We will provide an updated map as more information is provided.
The firefighters’ strategy on Wednesday is to switch from point protection to constructing fireline to begin containment of the fire. They had hoped to do that on Tuesday, but the weather and fire behavior did not cooperate, pushing them back into a defensive and structure protection mode. Containment is still listed at zero percent, and 900 homes are still under a mandatory evacuation order. On Wednesday three air tankers (two P2Vs and one single engine air tanker) and four helicopters (including two National Guard Blackhawks) will be working on the fire. More aircraft are on order.
The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center reported Wednesday morning that Rich Harvey’s Type 1 Incident Management Team arrived and in-briefed at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday and will assume command at end of the shift today. The RMACC says 3,790 acres have burned. This reduction in size is probably due to more accurate mapping as a result of the aircraft that Tuesday night used infrared equipment to determine the fire perimeter.
On Tuesday the Colorado State Forest Service released a statement saying a prescribed fire they ignited on Wednesday, March 21, escaped control on Monday, and investigations are underway to determine the cause of the Lower North Fork fire. The Denver Post earlier on Tuesday quoted Jacki Kelley, a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, as saying the fire originated from a controlled burn conducted by the Colorado Forest Service.
This first video is from a 6:00 a.m. newscast on March 27.
The video below is from March 26.
9news.com occasionally has live video reports about the fire.