Firefighters trying to contain the largest wildfire in the state's history were forced to retreat Friday in the face of flames fanned by gusting winds, Cameron Peak fire officials said.
“We are experiencing extreme fire activity,” fire spokeswoman Cass Cairns said, adding firefighters have been extracted from Miller Creek, The Retreat, and Storm Mountain areas for their safety.
More than 1,100 firefighters have been trying for more than two months to gain control of the massive blaze west of Fort Collins, which grew another 6,000 acres Friday to 173,536 acres. Containment is at 57%.
Their efforts have been hampered by persistent drought, extreme end-of-summer heat and winds gusting to 60 mph that have blown up the fire and grounded air tankers and helicopters.
With a red flag warning in effect until Saturday evening and wind gusts in excess of 50 mph, fire crews are bracing for another blowup similar to Wednesday, when the fire surpassed the two previous largest fires: The 137,760-acre Hayman fire in 2002 and this year's 139,006-acre Pine Gulch fire.
The strong winds Friday again left firefighters on the ground without any help from tankers and helicopters, which weren't able to drop water or retardant on the fire.
Crews are working to slow the fire’s spread and to protect as many structures as they can, Cairns said, adding that 200 additional fire trucks have been requested to assist.
“We’re beefing up our resources,” she said. “We’re going to fight where we can fight, and hold back when we have to.”
Voluntary evacuations have been ordered for the region between Pinewood and Flatiron reservoirs, according to the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.
Meanwhile, the East Troublesome fire that ignited in Grand County on Wednesday, grew to 7,871 acres Friday, according to the fire information website.
Aircraft were able to attack the flames with retardant and water Thursday before winds picked up again, while 80 firefighters continued Friday to work on building containment lines.
A red flag warning is also in effect for the East Troublesome fire, which could see wind gusts up to 35 mph Friday.
Pre-evacuation orders were issued for parts of Grand County because of the fire's spread.
The Wild Horse fire on Fort Carson along Colorado 115 remained the same size, 670 acres, while containment increased to 70% Friday, post spokeswoman Brandy Gill said.