LARIMER COUNTY — This afternoon the Larimer County Sheriff's Office has expanded the pre-evacuation order for the Glacier View area, where they are considering whether to implement a burn out of dry beetle-killed trees 3-5 miles west of the edge of the High Park fire.
Whereas 25 emergency calls went out Tuesday, today 1,023 were issued. A pre-evacuation is not an order to leave immediately, it's a warning advising residents to be prepared to leave at a moment's notice.
However, Nick Christensen, the sheriff's executive officer, said residents of the Glacier View subdivision should be ready to move. He also said there will be heavy smoke and flames in the area if the backburn is lit.
During at 3:30 p.m. briefing, Christensen said progress has been made on the north and east sides of the fire.
Beetle-killed trees continue to be a worry on the western edge and firefighters are having trouble "connecting the dots" of the containment perimeter on the southern edge.
The High Park fire near Fort Collins is at 46,600 acres with 10 percent containment. More than 1,000 personnel are involved today in fighting the fire, the third-largest in recorded Colorado history.
A priority today for officials will be assessing damage to homes. A citizens briefing at 3 p.m. today at The Ranch in Loveland will give as much of an update as possible.
"There will not be a complete list of homes damaged today, but the process is beginning so as much information as possible can be provided," the county said on its website.
Rist Canyon resident Jerry Holsenback found out his home had been spared. "But that's all that's left, it sounds like," he said after the resident meeting. "I told myself coming here that at this point all any of us can do is be thankful and pray for the firefighters to get out OK."
Fire officials hope they can allow more evacuees back to their homes today in the Shoreline Drive and Bellvue areas east of County Road 27E, Christensen said.
Evacuees from those areas who can show identification with proof of address will be issued credentials at the citizens briefing.
Residents of Bonner Peak, Bonner Springs Ranch, the Missile Silo Road area, and Mill and Soldier canyons may be able to go home tomorrow.
The fire has destroyed more than 100 structures. Officials say 62-year-old Linda Steadman died when the fire burned her cabin at 9123 Old Flowers Road.
It may be days before an accurate accounting of lost structures is complete, Christensen said. Assessment teams are working in the burn area now.
About 70 percent of the fire zone is private land and 30 percent is national forest land. The fire started Saturday with a lightning strike.
At a morning news conference, incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said he was optimistic that crews today would be able to increase containment of the fire.
He pointed out that conditions in the northwest quadrant of the fire were difficult for firefighters because of the steep terrain and heavy fuels. Hahnenberg said different strategies would be used in that area to protect firefighters.
Firefighters are working in the Lawrence Creek, Buckhorn Road and Stove Prairie Road areas today.
"We have a lot of work to do there," Hahnenberg said.
On Tuesday, after the morning haze lifted, firefighters used a heavy aerial assault, with five heavy tankers, five smaller airplanes, and 14 helicopters, among other craft, to pound away at hot spots.
"It did have a positive effect on our effort to contain the fire and save structures," Hahnenberg said.
Winds in the fire area, centered about 15 miles northwest of Fort Collins, will gust to about 18 mph this afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. Today will be warmer than the past couple of days as the high temperature climbs into the mid-80s under mostly sunny skies. Dry weather, with no chance of rain, is expected today and tomorrow.
Jeff Corum, 53, escaped the blaze early Sunday morning after being awakened by a fire truck rumbling outside his home.
Corum, who spent Tuesday night at the evacuee shelter in Loveland, had draped wet sheets on his windows and was prepared, at least mentally, to hunker down.
When firefighters urged, and then helped, Corum to get out at about 1 a.m., nearby flames were shooting about 50 feet into the night sky.
Corum grabbed two collector guns, including an old Colt, and his laptop as he fled.
While eating a sausage breakfast this morning, Corum fretted about his home and property.
"It's a helpless feeling," he said.
Corum has been living off Kings Canyon Road for the past six years. There are wild turkeys on his property and it's only 20 minutes to downtown Fort Collins, he boasts.
Corum and other evacuees hope to find out today from fire officials whether or not their homes are still intact.
If the house is gone, Corum said he'd rebuild.
"In a heartbeat — it's paradise up there."
Jeff Bourcy, a claim manager with American Family Insurance, is one of many agents working at the mobile claims units set up at the evacuation center.
He said in addition to reimbursement for hotels, residents are being advised to file a claim on their property even if they haven't been allowed to see the damage yet.
So far he has processed about 30 claims.
Steve Babcoke, 70, figures he may well be filing a claim on the Stove Prairie Junction house he's lived in since 1974.
He left for the evacuation center Saturday evening with his dog and says it's the longest he's ever been evacuated.
"It's a bit like waiting to see if you've got cancer," he said of waiting to hear the fate of his home.
He was also evacuated during the Crystal Fire in 2011 and the Bobcat Fire in 2000. He recalls ashes falling on his home during the Bobcat Fire before a freak summer snowstorm hit.
"If you don't have a sense of humor for these things," Babcoke said, "you're not going to make it."
Kieran Nicholson: 303-954-1822 or email@example.com