The Cameron Peak fire that had been burning west of Fort Collins and North Estes Park for a month erupted on Wednesday afternoon with strong winds and dry conditions, close to the Fort Collins city limits.
At the end of the day, the flames burned 158,300 acres, grabbing the claim as the largest fire in Colorado’s recorded history, a record set earlier this year due to the Pine Gulch fire outside Grand Junction.
The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office has placed mandatory evacuation orders for at least five communities west of Fort Collins, including Laurie State Park, Masonville, and Redstone Canyon. Several other societies are subject to voluntary orders.
A spokesman for the office, Jared Kramer, said the sheriff’s office is working with people who have been evacuated by the Cameron Peak fire.
Kramer said, “We go to every dorm, knock on the door – we try to contact anyone who is there. If they choose not to leave, we will not physically force them to go out but at some point we can ‘get back to get them out.’
The evacuated communities are located about 10 to 30 miles south and west of Fort Collins.
Russell Danielson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder, said winds of 70 mph over the area were blowing over the area Wednesday morning through the early afternoon.
“The wind is coming from the west and pushed the fire towards the east very quickly,” Danielson said. “It has moved anywhere from 11 to 15 miles east, which is pretty cool.”
A thick plume of smoke covered the northern frontal range on Wednesday, and strong winds carried it all the way to Iowa.