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 Wednesday.
According to an incident website maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, the fire was at 45 percent containment Wednesday night, burning 10 miles northwest of Masonville. Fire activity was listed as creeping and smoldering, with low growth potential, and officials expected to have it 60 percent contained Wednesday night.
Crews consider a fire 100 percent contained when lines have been completed around the flames and when theyâ€™re confident it wonâ€™t overrun their perimeter; it doesnâ€™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. Wednesday. No structures were damaged, but roadblocks remain in place to allow only residents into the area.
During a press conference at the National Guard Armory in Fort Collins on Wednesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper thanked CSUâ€™s Colorado State Forest Service and local firefighters. But he warned that a â€œheavy burdenâ€ could be placed on fire crews in the coming months due to low levels of precipitation outside of the mountains.
â€œWeâ€™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,â€ 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 at the Crystal Fire. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay up to 75 percent of the total 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 Crystal Fire, which started Saturday evening and exploded to more than 4,500 acre, is burning on both private land and in Roosevelt National Forest.
Managing Editor Jim Sojourner can be reached at email@example.com.