A helicopter drops water onto the High Park Fire in Colorado (image credit Marc Piscotty/Getty)
Fort Collins, CO (written by Robert Allen/Ft. Collins Coloradoan) -- Extremely dry, windy conditions on Sunday stoked the High Park Fire, which has grown to 88 square miles, prompting hundreds more evacuation notices and grounding firefighting aircraft for hours.
"These are the conditions that kill people -- kill firefighters -- and we don't want that," fire information officer Brett Haberstick said, adding that "historic" weather brought about an environment conducive to flare-ups in the burn area.
"It's these kinds of days that challenge what you've done."
The fire grew about 2.6 percent to 56,480 acres, or 88 square miles, Sunday.
Humidity dipped as low as 3 percent, winds reached 50 mph and temperatures hit the mid-90s. These conditions in high, timbered forests resulted in heavy smoke that drifted east into Fort Collins as the fire began to threaten more structures in areas west of Horsetooth Reservoir and near Poudre Canyon.
More than a week into the lightning-caused fire reported June 9, there've been more than 3,000 evacuation notices, one death and 181 homes destroyed. The blaze is the most destructive in Colorado history.
By late Sunday afternoon, the smoke over Fort Collins began to lift, and helicopters returned to the skies from the command post on west LaPorte Avenue. They made quick drops between a portable pond and burn areas west of Horsetooth Reservoir as a round of evacuation notices was sent in the area.
Some firefighters along the active west perimeter were pulled back because of high heat. About 1,000 of the more than 1,700 people working the fire camped on the west side Sunday night, Haberstick said.
Sunday's extreme weather brought about 427 evacuation notices and 473 pre-evacuation notices.
Incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said at a Sunday morning briefing that a "substantial increase" had been made toward containment this weekend, bringing it to 45 percent, where it remained Sunday evening. The fire's east side, from Seaman Reservoir to Horsetooth Reservoir, was contained in a consistent fire line. Some 529 residences in the fire's perimeter were saved.
In the Glacier View Meadows area, a perimeter has been built around a spot fire that threatened residences on the north side of Poudre Canyon.
A fire line was built around an area of the fire that jumped north of the canyon near Lake George, Colo.
and burned 200 acres. More than 40 firefighters are assigned to the incident. At least four heavy air tankers and one helicopter are working to contain the blaze.
Meanwhile, homes in the Hewlett Gulch Subdivision to the east were evacuated Sunday, with 96 notices sent as a precaution in case the fire spreads from the canyon.
Hahnenberg and Larimer Sheriff Justin Smith acknowledged the work of men, sons and daughters fighting the fire rather than having family time Father's Day.
At the command post, firefighters received a Father's Day dinner of hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, corn and beans.