Apr 062011
Authors: Jim Sojourner

Officials hope to have the 3,200-acre Crystal Fire fully contained by Friday, after cool, wet weather allowed firefighting crews to make significant progress today.

According to an incident website maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, the fire is at 45 percent containment, burning 10 miles northwest of Masonville. Fire activity is listed as creeping and smoldering, with low growth potential, and officials expect to have it 60 percent contained tonight.

Crews consider a fire 100 percent contained when lines have been completed around the flames and when they’re confident it won’t overrun their perimeter; it doesn’t mean the fire is out.

The high winds that forced new evacuations Tuesday evening calmed later that night, and residents were allowed to return to their homes after 10 a.m. today. No structures were damaged, but roadblocks remain in place to allow only residents into the area.

The same weather that aided firefighters on the ground prevented airdrops throughout the day.

During a press conference at the National Guard Armory in Fort Collins, Gov. John Hickenlooper thanked CSU’s Colorado State Forest Service and local firefighters. But he warned that a “heavy burden” could be placed on fire crews in the coming months due to low levels of precipitation outside of the mountains.

“We’re as ready as we can be as far as having contingencies laid out and plans in place, but this is going to be a challenging summer,” he said.

Hickenlooper said a state wildfire preparedness plan is already in place. On Sunday, Hickenlooper directed $1.7 million in state funds to help cover firefighting costs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay up to 75 percent of the bill.

CSU President Tony Frank was also at the conference.

Fire restrictions are in place for Larimer County until May 5, banning open fires and fireworks. Contained open fires, such as those in grills or in permanent fireplaces, are allowed.

The fire, which started Saturday evening and exploded to more than 4,500 acres, is burning on both private land and in Roosevelt National Forest.

Managing Editor Jim Sojourner can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 11:21 am

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