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The Ptarmigan fire, burning on national forest lands east of Silverthorne, was reported Monday afternoon, according to Summit Fire and EMS. (Photo provided by U.S. Forest Service)

Hundreds of homes are being evacuated out an “an abundance of caution” after a wildfire ignited east of Silverthorne and grew to nearly 60 acres overnight, officials said.

The Ptarmigan fire saw “unprecedented fire behavior” overnight after being reported Monday afternoon, Adam Bianchi, Dillion District Ranger for the White River National Forest said at a fire update Tuesday. More than 617 residences were under an evacuation or pre-evacuation notice, officials said.

“It is easier to move people out of these neighborhoods like we did last night rather than in a panic,” Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said at the briefing.

As of Tuesday morning, one large air tanker arrived to drop retardant on the flames along the west side of the fire, Bianchi said. A Chinook and a smaller helicopter also dropped buckets of water, while 20 hand crews fought the flames on the ground, he said.

“Right now our main mission is to utilize that aircraft,” Bianchi said, adding that drones prevent firefighters from attacking the flames from above. 

The fire was reported about 4:30 p.m. Monday and is burning primarily on the White River National Forest in an area with dense stands of dead-standing and fallen lodgepole pines, according to the fire department. 

Officials have said cooler overnight temperatures and higher humidity could help firefighters control the flames. 

No homes were immediately threatened by the fire, though evacuation and pre-evacuation orders were issued out of an abundance of caution, officials said. Evacuation centers have been set up at Summit Middle School in Frisco.

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

Olivia Prentzel covers breaking news and a wide range of other important issues impacting Coloradans for The Colorado Sun, where she has been a staff writer since 2021. At The Sun, she has covered wildfires, criminal justice, the environment,...