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Colorado: Some High Park Fire evacuation orders lifted

46,000-acre fire reaching flammable beetle-kill stands on west flank, with good containment on the north and east sides

Summit Voice contributor Mark Newby created this map using Google Earth and associated tools. To learn more about how to use these tools to get precise and up-to-date information, click on the image.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Emergency officials lifted evacuation orders in parts of the High Park Fire Wednesday, but warned that the fire is still burning actively and spreading in several areas. The fire may well remain active until monsoon rains arrive, or even into fall, incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said during the daily fire media briefing. Details on evacuations are online at InciWeb and at the Larimer County Sheriff website.

The lightning-caused fire was reported 10 percent contained, at 46,280 acres as of Wednesday evening, with more than 1,200 firefighters on scene. About 77 percent of the fire has burned on state and private land, and only 23 percent on national forest land.

An assessment team was still compiling information on the total number and exact locations of damaged homes and other structures, Hahnenberg said, adding that it’s still dangerous for firefighters to go into some of the burned areas.

One of the biggest challenges for firefighters is on the west flank, where the fire is still burning unchecked and moving into stands of beetle-killed pines, some of them still burdened with red, dead needles that render them particularly flammable. Continue reading

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper makes formal disaster declaration for High Park Fire to free up emergency funds

The High Park Fire burn area as of Tuesday morning. MAP COURTESY MARK NEWBY/BLACK ICE GEOSPATIAL.

Declaration helps state tap into federal emergency funds

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper Tuesday declared the High Park Fire a state disaster in a move that allocates $20 million to the state’s Disaster Emergency Fund to pay for firefighting efforts. Click here to read the declaration.

Fire incident commander Bill Hahnenberg Tuesday morning estimated the total cost of the fire so far at about $1.6 million, mounting at the rate of as much as $400,000 per day.

Hickenlooper gave verbal approval hours after the fire started on Saturday for the disaster declaration and authorized the use of Colorado National Guard resources to help fight the fire. Tuesday’s declaration formalizes both actions and authorizes state emergency managers to apply for federal disaster funds. Continue reading

Colorado drought watch: Poudre River goes dry

Shut-off at Long Draw Reservoir cuts flows in Fort Collins; river expected to rise again Saturday afternoon

Flows in the Poudre River on Fort Collins dropped from about 100 cfs to under 2 cfs overnight, leaving the river nearly dry as it flows through Fort Collins. PHOTO COURTESY GARY WOCKNER.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In a scene that will likely be repeated many times this summer, Fort Collins residents woke up Saturday morning to find their cherished Poudre River flowing at a mere trickle, with hardly enough water to keep fish alive in some sections.

A dry winter followed by a record early snowmelt and months of above normal temperatures have all of Colorado in drought conditions, and the Poudre River Basin wasn’t even the hardest hit, after early winter brought significant snows to the northern Front Range.

State officials said the river dried up because they shut off flows from Long Draw Reservoir as they managed competing demands for irrigation water.

“It puts a big gap in the river … that works its way down though Fort Collins,” said Mark Simpson, assistant water commissioner for the Poudre River. Simpson said he anticipates the flows will return by Saturday afternoon.

Water Commissioner George Varra said he tries to manage cutbacks and diversions to avoid impacts to the downtown stretch of the river during peak recreation periods, but that it’s very difficult, especially during low-flow years. Continue reading

Colorado: No fracking ban in Fort Collins

Fracking continues to create political rifts. Image via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Republicans put the brakes on a proposed ban at controversial city council session

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — It’s not clear exactly why energy development has become a partisan political issue, but Colorado Republicans once demonstrated their extraordinary lack of sensitivity to environmental values, as three GOP members of the Fort Collins City Council reversed their anti-fracking vote of several weeks ago.

With one council member absent, a three-three tie vote meant that a proposed ban on fracking in the city won’t be enacted. Environmental activists charged that the Republicans were taking advantage of the absence of  progressive city council member Gerry Horak to undo what just a short time ago seemed like a done deal. Continue reading

Colorado: Hewlett Fire grows, but some evacuations lifted

Potential for more growth still high, but cooler weather, and maybe some showers, on the way

Hewlett Fire Map Colorado

The Hewlett Fire has spread across about 7,300 acres.

Hewlett Fire Colorado.

The Hewlett Fire from 287 at The Forks. Click for more images.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Hewlett Fire took another 2,000-acre bite out of the Front Range Thursday, growing from just more than 5,000 acres in the morning to about 7,300 acres by the end of the day, when firefighting agencies gave their final briefing.

But despite the overall growth in size, firefighters did make progress in containing the blaze, especially on the fire’s east flank, along the North Fork of the Poudre River from Seaman Reservoir to Long Draw. As a result, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office lifted the mandatory evacuation order for 65 homes in the area of Bonner Springs Ranch Road, Deer Valley Road, Obenchain Road, Ingleside Road.

The mandatory evacuation for the 15 homes along Highway 14 from the Greyrock Trailhead to the North Poudre diversion dam (approx. mile markers 113 to 115) is still in effect.

The human-caused fire is about 5 percent contained, though the potential for additional growth remains high.

About 400 personnel are fighting the fire and more firefighters are on the way, along with two heavy air tankers, one heavy helicopter, and one light helicopter.

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