Fort Collins, CO (written by Sarah Jane Kyle & Madeline Novey/Ft. Collins Coloradoan) -- A Monday when some residents mourned the loss of their homes and one of their neighbors ended with a message of hope from those battling the High Park Fire.
The 41,140-acre fire burning just more than 6 miles from Old Town Fort Collins has consumed more than 100 structures and taken the life of 62-year-old Linda Steadman since its early Saturday genesis by lightning. But the outlook for the fire burning in areas surrounding Rist Canyon, Stove Prairie, Paradise Park and Poudre Canyon is improved for the rest of the week, authorities say.
"We're actually opponents on the field now," Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said Monday night, adding that the Type 1 incident management team had helped free up resources. "Before, we were just losing ground."
In a Monday evening briefing, County Sheriff's Office Spokesman Nick Christensen said there should be better news regarding containment Tuesday morning. The current estimate of zero percent "should go up by (this) morning," he said.
Type 1 Incident Commander Bill Hahnenberg said he is "completely confident" that crews will obtain any resources they "need or want," including hot shot teams, wildlands experts and local, statewide and national crews.
"There's tenuous hope for containment depending on nature and weather," Hahnenberg said. "We may be at zero percent (Monday night), and sometimes there are just days like that."
He expected at least 500 to 600 personnel to be on the ground Tuesday morning.
Crews were able to build hard lines around the fire Monday, Christensen said, and established an anchor in the southwest portion of the fire. Those victories came at the end of a day punctuated by tears, heroism praised and harsh feelings over losses both material and intimately personal.
Officials said Monday night they believe Steadman is the fire's first victim. Firefighters found what are thought to be her remains in the ashes of her home near Bellvue.
It will take time to confirm the remains are those of Steadman, a woman her family called a beloved mother, grandmother and sister who "perished in the cabin she loved."
Smith said Monday that emergency personnel attempted to enter Steadman's home as it burned Saturday, but had to back down as flames started to overtake the cabin. A firefighter was sent back, and by the time the firefighter could get through the gate, he was "chased out" by flames that overtook the home, Smith said.
Elsewhere, some residents remain irritated and nervous as they wait to hear if their homes are among the more than 100 structures lost.
Lou DeAngelis, who just built his "dream home" in Stratton Park, said he spent Saturday's early hours clearing as much timber away from his home and sculpting studio before rushing his wife and 3-year-old child out of harm's way.
Now DeAngelis says authorities are avoiding his and other residents' questions.
"When you can Google anything these days, why can't you give us addresses?" he said. "We don't feel like we're getting answers. We want to know if we still have a life there."