Second Wildfire Ignites In Boulder County, As Fires Burn Across Colorado

October 18, 2020
The Calwood fire ignited October 17, 2020, in the foothills above Boulder. This view is from Longmont.The Calwood fire ignited October 17, 2020, in the foothills above Boulder. This view is from Longmont.(Courtesy of Anna Schimel)
The Calwood fire ignited October 17, 2020, in the foothills above Boulder. This view is from Longmont.

Updated 7:37 p.m.

Cold temperatures, as well as fog, mist and higher humidity, swept into the Front Range Sunday, dampening the progress of fires burning near Fort Collins and Boulder. However, higher elevations remained dry, with no precipitation, lower humidity and continued winds, and winds are expected to pick up in the afternoon.

A second wildfire ignited in Boulder County early Sunday afternoon and burned an estimated 312 acres as of Sunday evening. The towns of Ward and Gold Hill, as well as parts of Lefthand Canyon and Sunshine Canyon, were placed under evacuation orders.

The Larimer County Sheriff's Office announced that some evacuation orders for the Cameron Peak fire had been lifted around midday on Sunday, and others had been downgraded to voluntary.

“Today is a new day and I expect it to be a day for offensive firefighting,” Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said in a Facebook post Sunday

Dry conditions and heavy wind pushed the Calwood and Cameron Peak fires east on Saturday. The record-breaking Cameron Peak fire, which has been burning since August, grew to 203,253 acres by Sunday morning and is 62 percent contained.

The Calwood fire, which ignited around midday on Saturday, grew to 8,788 acres with 15 percent containment by Sunday afternoon. It is the largest recorded fire in Boulder County history, and its cause is under investigation. As of Sunday night, 26 homes had been lost, and fire officials expect that number to grow.

The cold front did not bring heavy precipitation, and fire officials on both fires prepared for windy conditions Sunday.

Aerial firefighting efforts on the Calwood fire were grounded in the morning due to weather, but Jennifer Bray, a communications specialist for the city of Boulder working on the fire, said crews hit the fire hard from the ground. Bray urged residents to stay out of the evacuation zones and refrain from flying drones near fires.

"We know it’s fun and you get great pictures, but it can impact fire fighting efforts," she said.

Firefighting efforts on the Cameron Peak fire are focused on its northeastern edge and on a spot fire near Lory State Park. In a Facebook update, Paul Delmerico, the operations section chief on the fire, said crews made good progress overnight and expect to make more Sunday as cool, wet weather slows the fire's spread.

Officials told residents of Lyons, north of Boulder, to prepare to evacuate on Sunday, but issued no new evacuation orders related to the Calwood fire. They lifted evacuations for the plains east of the foothills, where a spot fire driven by wind caught on Saturday. A map of evacuations for the Calwood and Lefthand Canyon fires is available here.

Areas west of Fort Collins remain under evacuation orders. A full map of evacuation orders and warnings is available here.

Winds are also expected to fuel the growth of the East Troublesome fire, near Granby. As of Sunday afternoon, it was 12,665 acres with 5 percent containment. Evacuation orders are in place for areas north of Hot Sulphur Springs and Granby.

Dry and windy conditions are expected in much of the state this week, which could fuel the fires.

This is a developing story and will be updated.