Firefighters concerned about red flag conditions forecast for Saturday
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY —More than 550 firefighters made major gains in their efforts to contain the Lower North Fork Fire in Jefferson County. By the end of the day, fire officials said the blaze was 70 percent contained. But with warm, dry and windy conditions expected Saturday, the crews could face another test.
Officials said residents near the fire’s perimeter should remain prepared and vigilant. There is no new evacuation order, but dangerous fire conditions forecast for Saturday could fan the flames in areas where the fire is not yet contained.
Most residents that were evacuated have been able to return to their home, but evacuation orders for the 180 homes in the Kuehster, Critchell, and Maxwell Hill neighborhoods have not been lifted, according to the Jefferson Country Sheriff’s Office.
An urban search and rescue team continued searching for missing resident for Ann Appel, covering 150 acres in Friday’s search.
Repair crews have also managed to restore power to 211 homes that lost service as a result of the fire.
A fire ban is also in effect for all parts of unincorporated Jefferson County, with no outdoor fires allowed.
Sen. Mark Udall also visited the fire area Friday, meeting with the incident commander and the Jefferson County Sheriff to learn what he might be able to do at the federal level to address impacts from the fire.
Udall released the following statement after his visit:
“My condolences go to the families and friends of those who were lost, and we all know how difficult life will be for those whose homes were burned in the Lower North Fork Fire. My thoughts are also with the first responders and wildland firefighters who are working nonstop to contain the blaze and protect this community. For now, the most important thing is to focus on the firefighting efforts to contain the blaze and protect residents and their homes. During my visit today, I was able to see firsthand the efforts on the ground, and received good feedback on what I can do at the federal level to support our first responders and those who have been displaced by this fire.
“Wildland fire is something we all have to deal with in Colorado and I will continue to fight for resources to fight and mitigate wildfire. It’s a sad truth that, for many Coloradans, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ you’re affected by a fire; it’s when. As this fire unfolds, I hope that Coloradans in other parts of the state will take proactive steps to protect their homes and communities. That includes taking a rake and a weed-whacker to areas around structures, and also clearing those home-ignition zones of combustible materials. Wildfire season usually starts much later in the year in Colorado, and this could very well turn out to be one of the worst. The dry and gusty conditions that have fueled this fire and others that have broken out around the state are warning signs that it may be a very long firefighting season.”
Udall said that, especially in a dry year, Coloradans and visitors should be aware of potential fire risks.
1. Recreate Responsibly: Err on the side of caution. Don’t leave campfires unattended, think before doing anything that could cause a spark in the backcountry and avoid outdoor burning. Be aware of fire risk by watching for posted warnings, and take responsibility for obeying restrictions in your area.
2. Prepare Your Property for Fire: If you live in a high-risk area, you can take precautionary steps to protect your homes from fire, such as installing fire-resistant roofing and creating defensible space around your home, including carefully storing firewood and other flammable objects. Remember, the most important tool is not a chainsaw; it is a rake and a weed-wacker to remove things like pine needles and grasses from your home and deck.
3. Prepare in Advance for An Evacuation: Hundreds of homes have already been evacuated early in this season, and it can be a harrowing process. Families can cut down on stress by implementing an evacuation plan that ensures the safety of people and essential belongings. If you have neighbors who are elderly or have special needs, consider them in your plans too.