Unusually low temperatures and snow hampered growth of the Cameron Peak fire Tuesday after it exploded in size over the weekend, according to an update on the fire command team's Facebook page.
The fire reached 102,596 acres Tuesday morning — making it the fifth largest wildfire in state history — after strong winds and high temperatures fueled its growth over the Labor Day weekend. Lower temperatures and snowfall overnight Monday and through Tuesday helped suppress the fire, which saw no change in growth as of Tuesday night.
Forecasts show temperatures staying in the 30s and 40s through Friday while wind gusts are predicted to ease to 16 mph Wednesday and Thursday -- all benefiting firefighting efforts, officials say. The chance of snow showers drops to 30% by Friday, the National Weather Service reported. Temperatures are to rise into the 50s with sunny, clear skies over the weekend.
While the lower temperatures and moisture provided relief to the 829 firefighters battling the blaze Tuesday, it wasn't enough to squelch the fire completely, Cameron Peak fire spokeswoman Alissa Tanne said.
"This year's drought sucked the moisture out of everything," she said.
The lack of moisture in the vegetation means even with a day or two of precipitation, the fire will persist as temperatures rebound into the 60s this weekend. Tanner said "season-ending events," associated with the coming of winter would be needed to extinguish the fire.
The fire's containment remained at 4% Tuesday. Tanner said the steep terrain where it's burning as well as the heavy fuels — tall conifers and lodgepole pines with shallow or dead root systems — make conditions extremely dangerous for firefighters to build containment lines.
The fire ranked as the state's top priority for wildfires Tuesday. Firefighters will work to put out hot spots around the perimeter and use the days of lower temperatures and moisture to try to get ahead of the blaze, fire spokesman Paul Bruggink said.
No structures were damaged before Monday, but the Larimer County Sheriff's Office received reports that some buildings near Monument Gulch and Rustic were damaged Monday, said David Moore, spokesman for the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.
"Structure evaluations will continue as lifeguards access areas affected by the fire. Larimer County Sheriff's Office will make notifications of property damage as losses are confirmed," according to an update on the fire command team's Facebook page Tuesday.
Firefighters and other officials were unable to access the area to assess the damage because of downed trees on the road but should be able to enter in coming days, Moore said.
Sections of Larimer County were under mandatory evacuation orders. Find out details on evacuations here.
Gazette reporter Breeanna Jent contributed to this report.