Apr 082011
Authors: Jim Sojourner

In an attempt to further contain the 3,200-acre Crystal Fire, firefighters are planning a burnout for this morning.

According to a press release, the burnout will encompass about 20 to 25 acres at the north end of the blaze and is intended to remove unburned fuel between the advancing fire and established containment lines or a natural barrier. This fire suppression tactic widens the established control line, reduces the potential fire intensity and can help firefighters suppress and control the flames.

The operation will create significant smoke, the release says, and residents should not call 911 unless they are sure of a new fire.

Although officials expected to have the fire fully contained by Friday, it is currently 55 percent contained. An incident website run by the U.S. Forest Service describes the fire, which is burning on private land and in Roosevelt National Forest about 10 miles northwest of Masonville, as creeping and smoldering with open flame emerging. It’s listed as having medium growth potential due to higher temperatures, lower humidity and wind gusts.

The website says officials now hope to have the fire fully contained by Sunday.

“While much of the heat has been removed from the fire, smoke will continue to be seen by residents along the foothills as the fire wakes up again amid the return to warmer weather,” said Operations Section Chief for Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team 1 Russ Long in a press release.

Crews prepared Friday for today’s burnout, a release says, by constructing a line where they want to stop the fire before a possible weather change Saturday evening. According to the National Weather Service, Masonville should see a partly sunny Saturday with a high temperature around 71, shifting into possible rain and snow showers overnight and into Sunday.

Air resources aided ground efforts Friday, dropping water on spot fires flaring up on the fire perimeter. More than 121,000 gallons of water and more than 14,000 gallons of retardant have been dropped on the Crystal Fire, according to a release.

Firefighters also worked to establish a remote base on the northwestern edge of the fire from which crews can operate to address safety and cost concerns.

“Firefighter and public safety is a high priority during our fight against the Crystal Fire,” Long said.

Although roadblocks in the area have been removed, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office is requesting that the public keep away from the burn area as additional traffic on the roads could hamper firefighter movement. Many of the roads are also on private land, and sheriff’s deputies will be patrolling and issuing trespassing citations to non-residents.

The fire started Saturday night and torched at least 15 homes. Residents in the burn area who lost property are asked to call Larimer County Emergency Manager Erik Nilsson at 970-498-5310.

 Posted by at 8:37 am

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