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NCAR Fire: All evacuation orders lifted as firefighters increase containment to 35% Sunday

Sunday, March 27

6:17 p.m. update:

The City of Boulder lifted all evacuation orders for the NCAR Fire as of 5 p.m. Sunday evening. Evacuees returning to their homes are encouraged to remain vigilant in the coming days, in case changing conditions prompt new evacuations.

4:52 p.m. update:

With fire crews working all day in cooler temperatures and lower winds, the NCAR Fire is now around 189 acres and 35% contained. Containment is significant around the eastern and southern sides of the blaze.

“Today was a good day,” said Mike Smith, the incident commander. “We had a tough day yesterday and I think you all got to see that. A lot of good work was done yesterday. We’re happy to reinforce the point that we’ve lost no structures, that we’ve had no reportable injuries.”

At this point, the cause of the blaze is unknown; the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office is investigating. More information for residents who have not yet been able to return home will likely become available this evening on the Boulder Office of Emergency Management’s website.

“There will be smoke visible on this thing probably for the next week but I feel very good about the containment portion of this,” Smith said. “You’ll see the percentages go up rapidly especially as we get into Tuesday as we’re expecting some moisture to come into the area.”

10:45 a.m. update:

Around 100 firefighters from across the Front Range continue to fight the NCAR Fire today, from the ground and the sky, using two fixed-wing air tankers and one helicopter. Officials estimate the blaze grew to around 200 acres overnight, with 21% containment.

“Today, we will continue to reinforce the line to make sure the fire doesn’t move towards the city or down towards Eldorado Canyon,” said incident commander Mike Smith at a press conference this morning. “We’re gonna continue to try and corral this fire up into the rocks, up into the snow, which is really one of our big holding features right now.”

Officials expected that higher humidity and lower winds overnight would help limit the spread of the fire. Brian Oliver, Wildland Division Chief for Boulder Fire and Rescue, said one key factor in their favor is the fact that a lot of mitigation work had been done in this area, including the trimming of trees and brush. Oliver said firefighters also held extensive training in the area last year.

"Most of this property is open space and mountain parks, and they have done tons of mitigation work along that entire southern flank," Oliver said. "Lots of mechanical thinning and things like that have reduced the fuel load, and that's given those firefighters a huge advantage in stopping the fire."

As of 9 a.m. Sunday, more than 1,600 residents are unable to return home, down from about 20,000 Saturday evening. No additional evacuations are planned, but Smith said first responders will be reexamining evacuation areas today.

“We’ll get people back into their homes as quickly as we can,” Smith said.

Affected residents can access the most up-to-date evacuation information on the Boulder Office of Emergency Management’s website.

Saturday, March 26

8:08 p.m. update:

Colorado's Division of Fire Prevention and Control has deployed multiple aircraft to assist in firefighting efforts.

At a 7 p.m. press conference, fire officials said the current goal is to stop forward progress of the blaze and get crews in overnight to mop up.

Winds are expected to die down overnight, which will aid in efforts to contain the fire. Smoke might go into the city of Boulder tonight due to weather changes.

The fire started at about 2 p.m. in the Bear Creek drainage area and moved quickly uphill. The cause of the fire is undetermined.

No structures have been reported damaged or lost.

5:32 p.m. update:

The NCAR Fire is now reported to be burning 123 acres with zero containment, more than doubling in size since the last update at 5 p.m.

Officials said at a press conference that winds are dying down and firefighters are working below the slurry line to fight the blaze.

The Eldorado Springs area and San Souci community have been added to the mandatory evacuation list. Approximately 19,000 people and 8,000 homes are affected by the current evacuation area.

The Boulder Office of Emergency Management released a map containing more information about evacuation areas and shelters:

The original story continues below.

A fire is currently burning in South Boulder near Table Mesa Dr.

The fast-moving blaze, which officials are calling the NCAR Fire, started Saturday afternoon in the open space near the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

The University of Colorado Boulder South campus has been ordered to evacuate, as well as the Table Mesa and Martin Acres neighborhoods. Eldorado Canyon State Park and other recreating areas near the fire are closed.

Areas west of Hwy 93, north of Eldorado Canyon State Park, east of Walker Ranch Open Space and south of Greenbriar Boulevard are under pre-evacuation notices.

About 1,200 contacts have received evacuation notifications. Wireless Emergency Alerts have been sent out to all cell phones within a 1/4-mile radius of the fire.

The East Boulder Community Center at 5660 Sioux Drive is now open as an evacuation point for evacuees and household pets.

Updates are being posted on the Boulder OEM website and the Boulder Police Department's Twitter account.

This is a developing story. Check back for more updates.

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