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Prescribed Burn Turns Into Wildfire Near Red Feather Lakes

Larimer County Sheriff's Office
A map of the Elk Fire area the morning of Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019.

Some residents affected by a wildfire in northern Larimer County remain under mandatory evacuations, but they are expected to return home by 8 a.m. Friday. Others in the Glacier View area were able to return home Thursday night. The Larimer County Sheriff's office reports the Elk Fire near Red Feather Lakes is now 80% contained. 

Elk Fire Updates, Thursday October 17th

A wildfire in northern Larimer County near Red Feather Lakes is forcing evacuations.

The fire began as a prescribed burn Tuesday near the Ben Delatour Scout Ranch, but the blaze grew out of control into a full blown wildfire.

The Larimer County Sheriff's Office reported Thursday afternoon the fire is 50% contained. It had spread to about 620 acres — approcimately 470 acres as part of the prescribed burn, and 150 acres of wildfire.

"Today we have about 144 firefighters on the ground and multiple aircraft in the air, including a heavy tanker and a single engine airtanker," said Jared Kramer with the sheriff's office.

Gusty winds likely caused the prescribed burn by the Nature Conservancy to jump its boundary. Kramer said the nonprofit contacted the sheriff's office Wednesday afternoon to request assistance as the fire "left the boundaries of its prescription."

"It was pretty windy yesterday and that is presumed to be the contributing factor, but an investigation will get more into the details of that once we get the fire contained and dealt with," Kramer said.

Evacuations ordered

On Wednesday evening, 175 acres had burned and officials estimated that as many as 50 homes were threatened. Officials issued a mix of mandatory and voluntary evacuations for many residents in the Glacier View subdivision.

So far only one structure, a shed, has been destroyed by the wildfire. No injuries have been reported.

Anderson Moore, a resident, tweeted a photo of a home near the fire Wednesday evening.

“We are under mandatory fire evacuations tonight for the Elk Fire,” Moore said.

Katie Cross evacuated Wednesday night, taking her two children and three dogs to stay with her inlaws in Denver.

She said she was away from home when she got the mandatory evacuation alert on her phone.

"I had to drive back to get my dogs and papers," Cross said. "I didn't get back until 8:00 last night to get them."

Cross said her husband is a volunteer helping with the fire.

"He was a hotshot this summer in Idaho so he's experienced and probably fine," she said. "There's no power or service up there, so I haven't really heard from him."

The Larimer County Sheriff's Office announced Thursday afternoon that some evacuations would be lifted at 6:00 p.m., with the remaining mandatory evacuation orders to be lifted at 8:00 a.m. Friday.

Shelter for animals

The Larimer Humane Society is offering temporary housing for cats, dogs, small mammals, exotic pets and small barnyard animals.

In a Facebook post, the society said residents with large animals, including horses and livestock, should call the Larimer Sheriff's Office at 970-416-1985.

"Please be advised, no supply or volunteer support is needed at this time," the post read. "We will update this page should the status change."

Air quality affected

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued an air quality advisory for central Larimer County through Friday morning.

The agency expects moderate to heavy wind to push smoke towards the northeast, hitting more rural parts of the county.

KUNC's Matt Bloom, Kyra Buckley and Esther Honig contributed to this report.

Stories written by KUNC newsroom staff.
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