Colorado Fires Map, A sprawling wildfire in northern Colorado grew larger than the nearby city of Fort Collins on Monday, racing across a crackling dry landscape at up to 40 feet a second, spitting flames as far as 300 feet into the air and forcing thousands out of their homes.
The Red Cross, Humane Society and other aid groups mobilized to help evacuees while at least 400 firefighters, aided by air tankers and helicopters from as far away as Canada battled the fire about 15 miles west of Fort Collins.
“The hope for containment today, I will tell you, is tenuous,” incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said.
The fire nearly doubled in size overnight to 36,930 acres, or more than 57 square miles, Larimer County Sheriff’s Office Executive Officer Nick Christensen said Monday. It had been estimated at 20,000 acres Sunday night.
The rapid growth made the fire zone larger than Fort Collins, which is 47 square miles.
While Fort Collins was not immediately threatened by the fire, a smoky pall hung over the city of 143,000, said Stephanie Ashley, a spokeswoman for the Larimer Humane Society.
“It’s pretty much a haze covering the town, and you can definitely smell it,” said Ashley, whose shelter was housing more than 170 animals dropped off by evacuees.
The fire was visible from the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins, where students and staff were told to move activities inside if possible. The university’s Foothills campus was serving as command center for the firefighting efforts.
The fire is “very large, unpredictable, aggressive,” Christensen said.
It was moving at 20 to 40 feet per second, or about 1 mile an hour — fast for a fire, Christensen said. Flames of 15 to 20 feet were commonplace, with some reaching 300 feet, he said.
While lower temperatures, slightly calmer winds and higher humidity were offering modest help to firefighters, the fire was entirely uncontrolled Monday morning, he said.
More than 100 structures had been damaged or destroyed, Sheriff Justin Smith said Monday. He did not know if they were homes, sheds or other buildings.
Incident commanders said the fire is highly likely to continue to grow, but no further evacuations were currently on tap.
Although the exact number of people under evacuation orders was not known Monday, authorities had put out more than 2,600 calls notifying residents of the evacuation orders, Christensen said.
He urged residents to heed to orders, saying fire crews cannot afford to spend too long in any one location.
Marty Schriefer, whose 42-acre property lies within the Roosevelt National Forrest, has kept an eye on the fire map since evacuating Sunday afternoon.
“Looking at the maps today, I’m pretty sure our house is gone,” he said Monday.
His wife called him at work Saturday morning to tell him she could see the looming smoke.
“We spent Saturday afternoon collecting up valuables, paperwork, irreplaceable stuff — photos, stuff like that,” he said.