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Crews facing dry, gusty conditions in Calwood, Lefthand Canyon fires; new evacuations ordered

Posted at 12:07 PM, Oct 21, 2020

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Firefighters in the Calwood and Lefthand Canyon fires on Wednesday faced dry, gusty conditions, and the Boulder County Sheriff's Office shortly after noon issued a new evacuation order for Lyons Park Estates to give residents enough time to leave.

Deputies were going door-to-door in the neighborhood and asking the 234 residents to leave and also consider winterizing anything on their property due to an incoming winter storm this weekend. There are 104 homes in the evacuation area.

During an early Wednesday evening update, fire officials and the Boulder County Sheriff's Office said fire activity from both fires was less than anticipated, but added there is still danger due to expected wind events later in the evening that could lead to a growth in the size of the fire.

They said the smoke residents were seeing throughout the day was from the East Troublesome Fire burning in Grand County as firefighters had done really well today fighting the wildfires in Boulder County.

Asked about the incoming cold front that's expected to bring freezing temperatures and snow to Colorado, planning operations spokesman Josh Shroyer said crews can't rely on the weather forecast, even though they're looking for it. If snow does come, Shroyer said, it'll help firefighters, but it won't put out the blaze.

Boulder County Sheriff's Office Division Chief Mike Wagner talked about the evacuations that took place earlier in the day at the Lyons Park Estates, saying just shy of 2,000 residences were evacuated, impacting about 3,500 people who were evacuated from both the Calwood and the Lefthand Canyon fires.

No other structures were reported lost by Wednesday evening, Wagner said.

When asked about upcoming evacuations, Wagner told reporters officials do not expect any more evacuations.

"At this point, evacuating (the Town of) Lyons is not a concern," he said.

Watch the full news conference in the video below:

Full news conference: Boulder County officials provide update on Calwood Fire, Oct. 21, 2020 at 6 p.m.

 The Calwood and Lefthand Canyon fires were active Tuesday, though aircraft were able to support crews when winds died down in the afternoon and firefighters built containment lines along the south side of the Calwood Fire.

Previous road closures, evacuation orders, and evacuation warnings remain in effect for areas near both fires. For more information on evacuation orders, click here.

Also on Wednesday, the Bureau of Land Management ordered the closure of all BLM lands in Boulder and Larimer counties due to the fire danger.

The Calwood Fire was at 9,915 acres and 21% contained, according to Wednesday morning's update. The Lefthand Canyon Fire was at 460 acres and 4% contained.

Dry, windy conditions were expected Wednesday and Thursday and a Red Flag warning was in place. Gusts could reach up to 30 mph in the fire areas.

During a virtual community meeting Tuesday evening, officials said a weather pattern occurred Oct. 17 that largely contributed to the growth of the Calwood Fire, and added fire danger will remain a challenge as it will still be very dry Wednesday before the weather shifts to cooler conditions on Thursday.

Fire officials blamed exceptionally dry fuels for contributing to the fire growth for the Calwood Fire, as well as this year's lack of monsoon rains, which a meteorologist with the incident team said did not develop this year.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said investigators have narrowed the point of origin for both the Calwood Fire and the Lefthand Canyon Fire, but a cause for both remains under investigation. No additional structures were lost or damaged, he said.

On Monday, crews worked around the entire Calwood Fire to create fire lines as direct as possible to the fire's edge. Aerial crews flew on the north side, where firefighters were monitoring for spot fires, including in the area of the South St. Vrain drainage, the incident management team said. Along the southern edge, firefighters created fire line west to try to connect to the 2003 Overland Fire burn scar area, where fuels are lighter, the incident management team said.

Boulder County residents can sign up for emergency notifications — via both cell phone and landlines, texts and email — by visiting www.Boco911Alert.com.

Over the last few days, residents and witnesses of the fire have shared videos and stories of how intense the fires have been burning.

Luca Churchill, his girlfriend, Holland, and his twin brother, Shiloh, put their lives on the line to help friends evacuate from their home on Mountain Ridge Drive.

Video shows people driving through flames in order to help their friends escape Calwood Fire

"As soon as we got up there, everything was like orange and it was raining ashes hard and we could barely see," said Luca Churchill, 16.

Churchill even brought hoses to set up on home’s roof.

"I told Holland to go run inside and help and I ran straight to the roof. I didn’t even go inside, I didn’t say hi to anyone, I ran straight to the roof, threw the hoses down, hooked them up to the spigots so we had water on the roof to help it try not to catch fire," said Churchill.

Time wasn’t on their side. If they were going to make it out alive, they had to leave right then. In total, they only had 20 minutes to evacuate.

Denver7 Gives has started a new fundraising campaign for victims of Colorado's wildfires. To donate, go here and then look for "Help Colorado Wildfire Victims" in the dropdown. We are working with our community partners up and down the Front Range to ensure every dollar raised stays in Colorado and helps families who've lost so much.