Wildfire In Foothills West Of Boulder: Focus Shifts To Cause

Photo: Sunshine Fire Boulder 1 AP
The Sunshine Fire burns near homes in Boulder early Sunday morning March 19, 2017.

Posted 3.19.2017 | Updated 3.20.2017 9:44 a.m. -- Containment of the Sunshine Fire remains at 50 percent following calm conditions overnight. Commander Nick Golderberger of the Boulder County Sheriff's office feels that the situation is "positive" as of Monday morning.

“I’d like to be optimistic, and I am. But you never know," he said. "So, they’re going to hit it hard and I do hope that I’m correct that it’ll be knocked out [today]. You just can’t tell, it really is a tough one to figure out fire and weather.”

Pre-evacuation and evacuation notices have been lifted. Fire fighters will keep working the fire today and a Red Flag Warning is also likely.

“The hillside is black and charred, as you might well imagine, but right now it’s calm. If it stays like that, and the firefighters get out there, it’ll be a good thing,” Golderberger said.

Our original story continues below:

The Boulder Sheriff’s office says lightening strikes and other natural events have been ruled out as possible causes of a wildfire Sunday in the foothills just a few miles west of the city. The focus now is shifting to transient campsites in that area and speculation about some kind of human cause, the spokesman said.

Some 426 homes were evacuated because of the Sunshine Fire, including neighborhoods in the city limits. Officials say it's not clear when evacuation orders and notices might be lifted. There are no reports of property damage or structure loss. No injuries have been reported.

Graphic: Sunshine Fire Evacuation Map
The map shows the evacuation zones for the Sunshine Fire.

Anne Spalding lives at the mouth of Sunshine canyon. She says she woke up early Sunday morning to knocking on her door.

“I think there were little siren blasts from the firefighters. There was probably eight or 10 fire trucks. And all their lights were on. They were giving us all these signals and knocking on every door.”

She's lived in the same home there for decades and says she regularly works around her home to create a defensible space against wildfires.

“Every year I take down trees, and I take down bushes,” she said. Her house is now surrounded by special gravel as well.

View of #SunshineFire from Flagstaff House on Flagstaff. @bouldercolorado @BoulderOEM pic.twitter.com/O1ee9ZD5en

Boulder OEM says eight aircraft were ordered to help fight the fire. They include a heavy air tanker from Jefferson County and helicopters from the National Guard.

Residents living within the city along 4th Street between Mapleton and Canyon Drive were evacuated, Boulder OEM said.

Boulder Canyon was closed at 9th Street westbound. Poorman Road at Sunshine Canyon Road and Timber Trail at Sunshine Canyon Road were closed, and Sunshine Canyon Drive was closed between 4th Street and Timber, according to OEM.

Evacuations in place for #SunshineFire - evac point is currently Boulder High. Please avoid Wonderland Lake - being used for water refill pic.twitter.com/jqVq50l0z8

Skiers headed to Eldora on Sunday morning were advised to avoid Highway 119 today and take alternate routes. The Betasso Preserve & Bald Mountain Open Spaces were also closed to the public.

Our crews are on the #SunshineFire. Please follow @BoulderOEM for #SunshineFire updates. pic.twitter.com/SKWzAGhRbP

Adding to the firefighting challenge: Fire danger was high around Denver and northeast Colorado on Sunday. A red flag fire warning went into effect beginning at noon. Very warm, very dry and sometimes windy conditions stretched over the northern Foothills and Plains.

Boulder OEM recommends that if you can see or smell smoke, children, elderly, pregnant women, and people with pre-existing respiratory conditions should stay inside with the windows and doors closed.

Hart Van Denburg, Vic Vela, Grace Hood and The Associated Press contributed to this story.