About 180 homes remain under evacuation in the Conifer area where the Lower North Fork Fire has destroyed more than two dozen homes and claimed at least two lives.
At a press briefing late Thursday afternoon, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said residents allowed to return to their homes today should be on standby in case the fire flares up tomorrow or over the weekend, when high winds are expected to return.
Kelley said authorities have been unable to find a missing woman whose home was destroyed in the blaze. Search teams are combing a large area around her home in case she tried to outrun the fire.
Incident Commander Rich Harvey didn’t release new containment information at the press briefing, but said “we’re making good progress.” The previous containment figure stood at 15%.
Harvey said the steep, rugged terrain in the area is a challenge, but “we put a lot of horsepower on the ground today, we intend to keep that horsepower out there tomorrow” to get an even better handle on the blaze.
Governor Hickenlooper Tours Fire Zone
Governor John Hickenlooper met with victims of the Lower North Fork Fire today and flew over the burned area.
“We saw houses burned right to the ground," he told reporters at a news conference, "and we saw houses right next door that at least from fairly close, appeared to be untouched.”
He met with residents at a shelter at West Jefferson Middle School too.
“I was impressed that their spirits, people’s spirits were fairly upbeat, given all that they’ve been through," Hickenlooper said.
The Governor is asking people not to rush to judgment about what happened with the prescribed burn that apparently re-ignited on Monday in Jefferson County and then spread quickly among high winds.
Hickenlooper says he wants an assessment of what procedures the Colorado State Forest Service used during the prescribed burn and what the state should do about such fires in the future. That assessment may take a few weeks. He’s put a stop to controlled burns on state land for the time being.
JeffCo Residents Allowed to Return to Evacuated Homes
At a noon press conference, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said some residents will be allowed to return to their homes, but they should remain vigilant and be ready to leave again at a moment’s notice.
Here is a list of areas where residents are being allowed back in:
· Foxton Road from Highway 285 to Reynolds Ranch Open Space Park parking lot.
· Pleasant Park Road from Oehlmann Park Road to Critchell Road
· High Grade Road from Maxwell Hill Road to Critchell Road.
· West Platte River Road from Foxton Road to South Platte Hotel.
Kelley also said about 12% of residents who should have gotten reverse 9-1-1 calls to evacuate did not receive them, possibly because of a software glitch. She says the Sheriff’s Office is working with the software manufacturer to fix the problem. In the meantime, law enforcement vehicle sirens will go off in neighborhoods that need to evacuate, in addition to reverse 9-1-1 calls.
Hundreds of Firefighters on the Scene
The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center reports 680 people are on the team fighting the Lower North Fork Fire today. Crews will reevaluate containment areas to try to allow some residents to return to their homes. The fire has moved into the Pike National Forest.
The National Weather Service says it will be dry and unseasonably warm today along the Front Range and in the foothills. Some areas could get gusts of around 35 mph. Gusty winds are expected this weekend, with the strongest winds expected Sunday as a cold front moves through. The Front Range could get some rain and snow showers late Sunday through early Monday.
Thursday Morning Update
Hundreds of firefighters are working in steep, rocky terrain to contain the more than 4,000 acre wildfire in the foothills southwest of Denver. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says the fire was 15% contained this morning, and that they'll focus today on cutting a large containment line around the fire's 8.5 mile perimeter. The Colorado Air National Guard will continue to help with firefighting efforts, but two air tankers are leaving Colorado to help fight a fire in South Dakota.
Governor John Hickenlooper returned to the state late last night after a trade trip to Mexico. He'll visit the incident command center today and meet with people who evacuated the area Monday. Law enforcement officials say they'll keep escorting residents whose homes have been damaged or destroyed into the perimeter today for brief visits.
At a media briefing this morning, Jefferson County officials said there is no timetable for when evacuees will be able to return to their homes.
CPR Wednesday update: Forest Service: We're Sorry
CPR report: Fire Victims Face Long Journey Home
CPR report: State Likely Won't Be Liable For Fire Damage
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[Photo: Jefferson County Sheriff's Office]