Sundays climate helps Cal-Wood firefighters yet emptyings are anticipated to remain in position


Colorado News

Cold, damp weather on Sunday is helping crews battle the Cal-Wood fire north of Boulder, but authorities say mandatory evacuations prompted by the dramatic blaze aren’t expected to be lifted soon.

“The high humidity and the mist and everything is helping,” said Jennifer Bray, a spokeswoman for the Boulder County Office of Emergency Management. “The firefighters are working hard, digging line.”

The downside of the weather is that aerial firefighting operations are on pause until it lifts, Bray said.

The fire has so far torched 8,788 acres. It began about 12:30 p.m. Saturday near the Cal-Wood Education Center in Jamestown and quickly raced east.

MORE: “It’s not looking good”: 900 homes north of Boulder evacuated because of raging Cal-Wood fire

County officials said they won’t know until later Sunday if homes or other structures were destroyed. A Colorado Sun freelance photographer witnessed several burn.

“We are assuming, just based on the fire behavior and the way that it moved, that there are homes or structures that are damaged or lost,” Cmdr. Mike Wagner, with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, said Saturday night. “We don’t know where yet.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Wagner said natural causes have preliminarily been ruled out because there was no lightning in the area on Saturday.

A time lapse of the Cal-Wood fire burning in Boulder County on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Steve Peterson, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, who earlier in the week sent 22 deputies to help evacuate people from the Cameron Peak fire in Larimer County, said in a Facebook post late Saturday night that he fears many homes were lost in the Cal-Wood fire. “Wind and drought made for a no-win day.”

The fire is 0% contained. The town of Lyons is on evacuation warning status just in case the fire is driven north by high winds.

Bray, the spokeswoman for the emergency management agency, said it’s unlikely people evacuated because of the fire will be able to return to their homes on Sunday because of firefighting operations and changing fire conditions.

Jamestown and areas west of U.S. 36 north of Boulder remain under mandatory evacuation orders on Sunday.

A map of the burn area shows that the fire passed through some subdivisions and areas where there are homes and businesses.

“Priorities today are fire containment, suppression and damage assessment,” Bray said

A Type 2 incident management team has been ordered to take over control of the firefighting command.

A firefighting plane drops retardant on the Cal-Wood fire near Boulder on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Joseph Gruber, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Colorado has been enduring several months of wildfires. The Cameron Peak fire, west of Fort Collins, continues to rage. This week, it became the largest recorded wildfire in state history. By Saturday evening, the blaze had grown to nearly 200,000 acres.

Over the summer, wildfires on the Western Slope scorched hundreds of thousands of acres.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor announced that all of Colorado is under drought status for the first time since 2013.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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