Colorado wildfires: High Park wildfire 37 percent contained as fire crews gain ground

Teller County Sheriff's Department
High Park Fire in Teller County.

Update: Tuesday, 8:00 a.m.

Firefighters made progress containing the High Park fire in Teller County on Monday, reaching 37% containment by late afternoon. But evacuation orders for residents in surrounding communities remain in place.

“Aerial support has helped reduce fire spread and is assisting the progress of ground crews,” said Lathan Johnson, the incident management team’s spokesperson in an online update. 

Crews will continue to focus on drawing new dozer lines along the fire’s southern edge on Tuesday, Johnson said. The fire’s size currently sits at over 1,500 acres or more than two square miles, according to InciWeb. 

The fire’s incident management team will host a community meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday to share more information about the fire. It will be held at Cripple Creek Victor High School. 

Scattered thunderstorms across Southern Colorado could help reduce fire danger through Wednesday. But hot and dry conditions are forecast to return Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

Update: Monday, 8:53 a.m.

The High Park fire in Teller County continued to grow over the weekend even as fire crews made significant progress building containment lines. Officials said Sunday evening that the fire has burned just over 1,500 acres. It is about 27 percent contained.

Incident management team spokesperson Lathan Johnson said the surrounding terrain was making suppression difficult. 

“Our goal is to limit the spread, keep it as small as possible but we're facing some really challenging conditions in terms of weather and fire behavior,” Johnson said. 

Evacuation orders and pre-evacuation notices are still in effect for several neighborhoods in the fire’s vicinity. The Teller County Sheriff's Office said Sunday that no structures have been destroyed. The evacuation center for residents has been moved to Woodland Park Community Church.

The fire, burning west of Cripple Creek, ignited on Thursday amid critical fire weather caused by high winds and dry conditions. By Friday, it had grown to about 1,000 acres and was 10 percent contained. 

Only three counties are experiencing the extreme fire weather that swept across Colorado last week. Dangerous fire conditions will likely return statewide on Thursday, before rapidly changing to cooler weather with a chance of showers. Several areas have enacted a burn ban in response to current drought conditions. Colorado Springs announced a city ban on most outdoor open burning Monday. Punishments could include a $2,500 fine, jail time, or probation. A fire ban is also in effect in unincorporated El Paso County.

Smoke from the High Park fire may be visible in certain parts of the state. The National Weather Service has issued an air quality advisory for residents near the fire. Wildfire smoke can penetrate deep into the lungs, aggravating chronic heart and lung conditions. It can also cause headaches, a runny nose, cough and difficulty breathing. Younger people and older people tend to be more susceptible.

KRCC's Abigail Beckman contributed to this report.