The Cameron Peak fire northwest of Fort Collins grew to 96,402 acres Monday, making it the fifth largest wildfire in Colorado history.
High winds and hot temperatures fueled extreme fire activity, triggering evacuations for hundreds of residents and closing Colorado 14, according to Inciweb. Some structures were lost or damaged, but fire officials don't know the extent of the destruction, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said.
"Today was a really extreme day," said Katie Donahue, district ranger for the Canyon Lakes Ranger District on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grasslands.
Fire crews were focused on structure protection as evacuation orders were issued for several subdivisions near the fire, including Crystal Lakes, Red Feather Lakes Village, Glacier View, and Lady Moon according to fire officials. The town of Glen Haven, Glen Haven Retreat and Storm Mountain were placed on a voluntary evacuation. The fire also closed Trail Ridge Road and numerous trails within Rocky Mountain National Park.
Fire crews brought in 50 additional engines to help protect structures during the day Monday, said Chuck Russell, deputy incident commander for the federal team fighting the fire. About 800 firefighters are assigned to the blaze, which is about 4% contained. It was not safe to use low-flying aircraft on the fire Monday.
While firefighters expect an incoming storm to help knock back the fire that has been burning in largely unpopulated areas since Aug. 13, it is not likely to put out the fire, officials said. The storm is expected to bring 8 to 16 inches of snow to the area, said Cory Mottice, a meteorologist dedicated to the fire. Conditions are likely to warm up and dry out following the storm, however.
"This fire is likely to wake back up," Donahue said.
The fire spread smoke across the region, darkening skies and causing ash to rain down on several communities.
Dianna Luce, a resident of Severance near Fort Collins, said she has lived through many wildfires but none of them compares to the Cameron Peak fire, with its eerie orange clouds and ash that's been falling since Friday.
The sky is reminiscent of a volcanic eruption, she said.
"There is ash all over our deck, all over the cars," she said.
Most people in Luce's neighborhood are staying inside to avoid the terrible air quality, and she won't even let her dog spend time outside.
She is hopeful that the incoming storm will bring snow as predicted.
"I don't know how else the air is going to clear," she said.
This story has been corrected to say the Cameron Peak fire is the fifth largest in state history.