LARMIER COUNTY, Colo. — More than 440 structures — 222 of which were cabins or residences — were destroyed in the Cameron Peak Fire, according to the Larimer County's Sheriff's Office.
Larimer County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Joe Shellhammer said during an announcement Wednesday morning that in total, 442 structures are total losses. As of Wednesday morning, crews had completed damage assessments in The Retreat, Storm Mountain, Cedar Park and the top of Glen Haven. He said there's still some heat above Glen Haven, which concerns him, and while he's been trying to get residents back to Storm Mountain and The Retreat if they need to winterize their homes or grab items, it's not quite safe enough for them to stay there.
Staff with Rocky Mountain National Park will assess the damage to buildings inside the park, he said.
The fire is currently 208,663 acres and 64% contained.
There are multiple ongoing conversations about evacuations, Shellhammer said. At 11 a.m. Wednesday, orders in Monument Gulch and Pingree Park downgraded from mandatory to voluntary evacuation status.
As for other areas, including Poudre Springs and upper and middle Buckhorn Road, crews are working to ensure that it would be safe for residents to return to their properties, particularly with with the threat of burned and weak trees, as well as snowy roads. Shellhammer said it's also important for crews to ensure residents can call 911 in some of those areas if need be.
He said teams will take residents into the Crystal Mountain area Wednesday to look at their properties and do assessments. Many trees have fallen and continue to fall in this area, he said.
Shellhammer said he feels for the families who lost their homes or property. He said his entire neighborhood got completely destroyed in the 2012 High Park Fire.
"But one thing I can tell you is we are going to recover from this. We are going to recover strong and we're going to come out of this way better than we were before," he said.
Shellhammer said he wanted to thank the volunteers who have helped at the animal evacuation center and assured owners they are getting great care.
"The snow is doing a lot of really good work for us," said Operations Section Chief Kyle Cannon. "Things are looking really good out there as compared to last week at this time."
The snow is melting slowly, meaning fuels are able to soak up more of the moisture, he explained.
With snow still on the ground, it's unlikely that the fire will grow, he said.
The snow has allowed for some evacuations to be downgraded or lifted. However, that doesn't mean every resident can return to their homes just yet.
"These two fires, these two animals, are not dead yet," Shellhammer said about the Cameron Peak Fire and East Troublesome Fire. "I need to make sure that we're making the safest decisions and not getting people back in and then having to pull the trigger and pull them right back out again."
During Tuesday's flyover, officials spotted light smoke in a few areas, meaning the fire is still producing heat. Officials said the smoke was seen west of Pingree Park andd the CSU Mountain Campus, within the North Fork Trail slopover northwest of Glen Haven, and along the southern and western sides of the Thompson Zone of the East Troublesome Fire, near Estes Park.
"It's a bizarre thing — it's like a 'Twilight Zone' episode when it's 9 degrees and you have 15 inches of snow and you're still seeing smoke," Shellhammer said.
The Cameron Peak Fire started on Aug. 13 and its cause remains under investigation.
Three of the largest wildfires in Colorado history occurred this year. These are the state's 10 largest wildfires, ranked by acreage, are:
1. Cameron Peak Fire (2020): 208,663 acres
2. East Troublesome Fire (2020): 192,560 acres
3. Pine Gulch Fire (2020): 139,007 acres
4. Hayman Fire (2002): 137,760 acres
5. Spring Fire (2018): 108,045 acres
6. High Park Fire (2012): 87,284 acres
7. Missionary Ridge Fire (2002): 72,962 acres
8. 416 Fire (2018): 54,000 acres
9. Bridger Fire (2008): 45,800 acres
10. Last Chance Fire (2012): 45,000 acres
Note: The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center said the West Fork Complex fire, which burned a total of 109,632 acres in 2013, is not included on this list since it involved three separate fires.
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