A Colorado forest fire raged across more than 8,700 dry and windy acres in less than 24 hours on Sunday, forcing nearly 3,000 people in Boulder County to evacuate the state and the west.
The CalWood fire started burning Saturday in Boulder County, about 50 miles southeast Cameron Peak Fire. This blaze, the largest in the state’s history, has burned more than 300 square miles since mid-August.
“It just blew up,” said Mike Wagner, department chief at the Boulder County Police Office, of the Calwood fire. “We think many homes may have been lost. Entry and initiation of appraisal is still very dynamic.”
The causes of both fires are still under investigation. Wagner said there were no lightning strikes or other possible weather events that could have set off the Calwood fire. But the area suffered from high winds and what fire officials described as “severe drought” conditions for weeks.
“Anyone subject to an evacuation warning due to #CalWoodFire should be ready to leave immediately,” Boulder’s Office of Emergency Management said on social media. “Pack your bag and get ready to leave without notice. Sunday’s winds could trigger fast-moving, fiery activity.”
Wagner said firefighting efforts were hampered by the weather and a shortage of firefighters due to demand across the West. More than 60 major fires are burning in 11 western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
“We have been concerned for some time about the danger of the fire,” said Wagner. “It was very dry.”
The Cameron Peak Fire, which was 62% contained on Sunday, burned more than 100 buildings. The forest fire began in the highland country 30 miles west of Fort Collins and continued to grow despite Labor Day snowfall by more than one foot. He broke the state record for the largest fire last week, ignited by days of strong winds.
More than a dozen fires burned across California, bringing good news over the weekend. The White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the state’s request for disaster relief funds to clean up damage from six fires. Late last week, the request was rejected, and the administration claimed that California had not made a strong enough case to help with the September fires.
In Utah, two new fires were much smaller but also forced evacuation. Range Fire burned 1500 acres and was never contained; The Canyon Fire was estimated at 1,460 acres Sunday morning but only 10% is contained.