The Cameron Peak fire west of Fort Collins continued its rapid expansion on Monday, with authorities warning that the blaze — which is now one of the largest recorded in Colorado — is threatening structures.
“There is definitely a lot of structures under threat,” Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said, speaking to reporters at a news conference Monday afternoon, ash from the fire falling around him. “Some imminent threat, some immediate threat and some further out.”
To-date, however, there have been no reports of destroyed buildings. Officials warned they haven’t been able to assess some areas where the fire passed through, though.
A number of new evacuation orders were issued on Sunday, including for the Glacier View subdivision. In fact, as officials were speaking at the news conference new evacuation orders were issued.
Authorities say they don’t know exactly how many people have been forced to leave their homes and businesses, but that the number is likely in the thousands.
The fire had burned more than 102,000 acres as of Tuesday morning, making it the fifth largest recorded in Colorado and several thousand acres larger than the High Park fire that destroyed at least 259 homes in Larimer County and killed one person in 2012. The Cameron Peak fire made a 10-mile run on Saturday and Sunday, roughly doubling in size. The eastern perimeter of the fire was the most active, incident commanders said, as flames spread in the crowns of trees toward Buckhorn Canyon and the High Park burn scar.
Fire crews are hoping for some relief Monday night when a blast of cold weather moves in. Smith said the weather system won’t put out the fire, but it will allow firefighters to take a break.
“It’s certainly not going to stop this fire,” Smith said, speaking of forecast snow.
The fire ignited on Aug. 13 near Chambers Lake. Officials believe it is human-caused and have asked for tips as they investigate how it began.
The fire has also entered a remote, northern area of Rocky Mountain National Park, prompting the closure of Trail Ridge and Old Fall River roads.
“This fire is full of more surprises than we’ve ever seen,” Smith said.
Smoke from the fire has choked the Front Range since Sunday.
Colorado’s state health department issued an air quality alert for much of the Front Range including Denver, Boulder, Longmont, Fort Collins and Greeley. Officials said the dense smoke from the fires could be unhealthy for older adults, children and people with lung disease or respiratory illnesses.
Those populations were advised to stay indoors if smoke becomes thick in their neighborhoods.
Closures of U.S. Forest Service land were extended to include areas east of the fire nearly to Fort Collins.
Health officials issued a separate smoke advisory for areas of northwestern Colorado due to fires burning in neighboring Utah.
All of Colorado is listed under some kind of drought status. The temperature in Denver reached or surpassed 90 degrees on Monday for the 73rd time this year, tying a record set in 2012.
Climate change has been blamed for the extraordinary heat this summer in Colorado.
The “Old Farmer’s Almanac” is predicting above-normal winter precipitation in the northern portions of Utah and Colorado, the eastern sections of Washington and Oregon and the western Dakotas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.