Colorado fire update: 2 fatalities; 16 structures burn; fire map

Map Lower North Fork Fire 220 pm 3-27-2012
Map Lower North Fork Fire 0900 3-27-2012
Map showing heat on the Lower North Fork Fire detected by satellites, March 27, 2012

(Read our March 28 update on the Lower North Fork fire and our March 29 update.)

UPDATE at 5:00 p.m. MT, 3-27-2012

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has provided additional information about the Lower North Fork Fire:

  • 23 homes have been damaged by the fire.
  • 4,500 acres have burned
  • Two air tankers are working the fire: a single engine air tanker and a large P2V. Two military helicopters are also assigned.
  • Increased fire activity today convinced the incident management team to issue a pre-evacuation notice to an additional 6,500 homes north and east of the fire.
  • 200 firefighters are on scene.
  • Containment is at 0%. Due to the fire behavior, firefighters had to back off from their aggressive strategy this morning, to more of a defensive strategy emphasizing structure protection.
  • The Type 1 Incident Management Team has arrived. There is no word yet on when they will assume command. Our best guess at Wildfire Today is sometime on Wednesday.


UPDATE at 3:25 p.m. MT, 3-27-2012:

The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office has identifed the two fatalities from the Lower North Fork Fire as a husband and wife, Samuel Lucas, 77, and Linda Lucas, 76.

Air Tanker 44 drop 312 pm 3-27-2012
Air Tanker 44 dropping at 3:12 pm 3-27-2012, on the Lower North Fork Fire. 9News

UPDATE AT 2:24 p.m., March 27, 2012

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department has updated the map of the Lower North Fork fire. The blue line is the evacuation Area as of 3/27/2012 at 2:00 p.m. This evacuation zone is the original area and does not include the pre-evacuation notice to 6,500 homes located in regions north of the existing evacuation area. The additional pre-evacuation notice was sent out because “current weather conditions have caused the fire to act in an erratic manner which may threaten those 6500 homes”.

Map Lower North Fork Fire 220 pm 3-27-2012
Map, Lower North Fork Fire, updated at 2:20 p.m. 3-27-2012. By Jefferson County Sheriffs Office


UPDATE at 12:33 p.m. MT, March 27, 2012

As the temperature rises and the humidity decreases, activity on the fire is picking up. At least two air tankers are actively dropping retardant on the fire, a Single Engine Air Tanker, and Tanker 44, the P2V which is the tanker than ran off the end of the runway at Rocky Mountain Metro Airport in 2010 after its brakes failed. The aircraft was repaired at the airport and has been stationed there for the last week or so. Two National Guard helicopters are enroute from Buckley Air Force Base to start dropping water.

Lower North Fork fire, 4:00 p.m, 3-26-2012
Lower North Fork fire, 4:00 p.m, 3-26-2012. Photo provided by Jefferson County Sheriffs Office
Tanker 44 drop 1231 pm 3-27-2012
Tanker 44 dropping on the Lower North Fork Fire at 12:31 p.m., 3-27-2012. Credit: 9News



UPDATE on the Lower North Fork fire, at 11:15 a.m. MT, March 27, 2012: From the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office:

A second fatality has been discovered within the fire zone near the location of the first. Both fatalities are being investigated by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. The fire has grown to 4,500 acres. Sixteen structures have burned thus far; that number is subject to change. The Type 1 Incident Management Team is expected to arrive this evening to assist in the management of the incident.

Occasionally 9news  has live streaming video of the fire.


Original post at 9:00 a.m. March 27, 2012

There has been one fatality and approximately 15 to 25 structures have burned in a wildfire that is southwest of Denver, and seven miles southeast of Conifer, Colorado. According to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office, the confirmed fatality on the Lower North Fork Fire is not an emergency response member but is likely a resident or visitor to the area. The fire was pushed by very strong winds on Monday — so strong that air tankers were not able to work the fire, which has burned 3,050 acres. At a weather station near Chatfield Lake between noon and 8 p.m. on Monday, the wind was measured at 25 to 38 mph, with gusts of 40 to 52. The Denver Post quotes Jacki Kelley, a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, as saying the fire originated from a controlled burn conducted by the Colorado Forest Service on March 19.

Map Lower North Fork Fire
Map showing the approximate perimeter of the Lower North Fork Fire at 11:00 p.m., 3-26-2012. Map created by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office

The map above shows the approximate perimeter of the Lower North Fork Fire as of 11:00 p.m. March 26. The fire is 0% contained. Hot Shot crews are on the way from Utah and Arizona and South Dakota; upon arrival they will be immediately deployed. A Type 2IA crew from South Dakota, Lower Brule Crew #2, is also responding. Due to the winds on Monday, firefighters could not take direct suppression action on the fire and only engaged in point protection. The fire was creating spot fires one-half to one mile ahead of the fire. Today they will actively construct fireline on the perimeter, taking advantage of the more favorable weather conditions. A Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered.


Lower North Fork Fire
Lower North Fork Fire at 8:43 a.m. March 27, 2012. Credit 9News
Lower North Fork Fire
Lower North Fork Fire at 8:41 a.m. March 27, 2012. Credit 9News

Below is a time-lapse video showing the smoke from the Lower North Fork Fire from 6:10 p.m. to 6:48 p.m. on March 26, 2012. It was taken from Gibraltar Place in Littleton, CO, near Chatfield Reservoir.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

8 thoughts on “Colorado fire update: 2 fatalities; 16 structures burn; fire map”

  1. Praying for the families of those who lost their lives and for those in the path of these wildfires.

  2. ^^^
    Let’s also hope they were paying attention to the weather and winds last week.

    From what I gathered from last weeks weather and winds….the isobars were pretty tight together and the winds across the CO NE SD geo area were pretttttty high.

    What were the humidities 5-15 per cent MAYYBE 40 RH recoveries overnite?

    Was there proper oversight and daily gridding of the site after the RX Fire? This spring has been a LOOKOUT season already. Was this Rx burn really necessary? Were these folks conducting the burn during one of the earliest fire seasons really payng attention.

    Could be Monday morning quarterbacking here……But the WX the last 4-6 weeks had LOOKOUT screaming particularly the last week in CO…WOW!!!

    You know full well lawyers and insurance companies are looking at this one….just like insurance folks looking at aviation

    CSU and Denver water Board….Good Luck!

  3. Some of the media in the Dnver area are reporting that this fire was an escape from a prescribed burn ignited by the Colorado Forest Service (CFS) last week; if so, you can expect the politicians and lawyers (all of whom have never burned more than hamburgers on their BBQs) to gather all sorts of media attention, and that the lawsuits will soon be deeper than Colorado snow in January! How about we stop doing prescribed burning, stop preaching FireSafe in the WUI and let the chips of Mother Nature fall where they may when She decides it’s time to burn?

    1. It does seem like this was a reignited ember from a prescribed burn, based on what has been reported thus far. I think other methods of fire mitigation are safer, but there are plenty of prescribed burns every year here that do not lead to out of control fires. I do, however, question the wisdom of doing a prescribed burn when it was done, as it’s been the driest March on record so far, and it’s also been extremely windy this winter.

      1. Let’s hope they had a good, approved Prescribed Burn Plan, and actually followed their plan.

  4. There has sadly been a second fatality with this fire. It’s about 18 miles from where I live, and we were driving home from Denver when it had just begun. I was able to take some pics with our camera phone… at that point, though, we did not yet know just how close to home the fire was located.


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