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Reservoir Road Fire west of Loveland is 35 percent contained as firefighters brace for wind

9:29 PM, Sep 14, 2010   |    comments
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The fire was started by accident on Sunday west of Loveland. It destroyed two homes, four or five outbuildings and several vehicles. The fire was estimated at 710 acres on Tuesday evening, down from 925 after crews got a better map of the fire.

"We have been giving it our best effort," Terry Krasko, a spokesperson for the Type I incident team, said.

9NEWS Meteorologist Marty Coniglio says winds could be a concern overnight for fire crews.

He says there were occasional wind gusts above 20 mph on Tuesday and those winds are expected to pick up overnight. Marty says gusts could get up to 40 mph overnight and on Wednesday morning.

A FIRE WEATHER WATCH for the Front Range foothills was cancelled by the National Weather Service on Tuesday afternoon, but Marty says conditions could still be dicey for firefighters.

"Obviously, any wind event, big wind event, is always a concern for a forest fire. We're reasonably confident we're going to be OK," Krasko said. "We're still looking at possible Red Flag Warnings for tomorrow; we don't whether that's actually going to come about."

On Tuesday evening, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said they spent the afternoon escorting more than 100 people back to their homes so they could grab some belongings. They could only stay for about 30 minutes before they had to leave again.

"It was eerie, went from green to a point where it got black," Shareen Raucci, an evacuated resident who was escorted home, said. "Most of our property was burnt. You can see the slurry around it."

"The fire's not out. There's still things burning in the interior of this thing," Krasko said. "This takes some time."

He says there are still some containment gaps on the southern part of the fire line.

Alderden says they would assess when people could go back to their homes permanently on Wednesday morning.

"We hold out hope that we'll be able to get people back permanently tomorrow, but we know we're not going to promise something we couldn't deliver," Justin Smith with the Larimer County Sheriff's Office said earlier on Tuesday. "We're keeping our fingers crossed, as you are, that hopefully tomorrow will be able to allow more residents back into their homes."

Authorities maintained the thought that the next day working the fire would be crucial to their efforts.

"I would say this [next] 36 hours is pivotal because we could have winds today and we just don't want it to get up and make any kind of run. We want to make sure it stays down," Jim Thomas, the incident commander, said Tuesday morning.

Krasko says a total of 557 firefighters are working the fire and it has already cost $1.6 million to fight. Since it began, air tankers have dropped 102,000 pounds of retardant in the area.

Authorities say the Reservoir Road Fire was caused by someone who was burning grass, leaves and small branches Sunday at their home, but the fire got out of control.

"They were trying to eliminate some refuse," Merlin Green, division chief with Loveland Fire, said.

The blaze quickly grew to 600 acres on Sunday, claiming the buildings. Green says the homes destroyed were located at 1497 Turkey Walk Trail and 1784 James Park Trail.

Alderden says he met with the Larimer County District Attorney's office on Tuesday to present the information about any possible charges. The DA's office plans to take time to review the case before making a decision. Alderden says he did not expect an answer on charges until next week.

Scott Pringle, deputy fire marshal with the Loveland Fire and Rescue Department, says he interviewed the people responsible.

"A resident was trying to burn a small pile of tree limbs near the driveway of his property, adjacent field, unfortunately when he lit the fire, it did spread quickly into the grass underneath and then spread into the field and some of the heavier fuels that we have out in their terrain," Pringle said.

Fire investigators say the man, his wife and neighbors tried to put the fire out using a garden hose, a rake and shovels and called 911.

Three Type II crews and 11 Type I Hot Shot crews were working on the fire Tuesday along with four heli-tankers and "a ramp-full of air tankers on standby," according to Krasko.

The extra resources, which seem to have been a huge help in fighting the fire, came mostly from the Fourmile Canyon Fire burning in Boulder, which was fully contained on Monday.

"They would have had to ramp up big time with a lot of people and a lot of equipment and so it just made sense, and probably saving a lot of the taxpayers and the county money, by letting us come over and try and manage it from both locations," Thomas said Tuesday. "Because all our people are in place, all our resources we were going to be releasing, so it just made a lot of sense and hopefully we'll do as well as we have right now on the Fourmile Fire."

Local authorities handed over management of the blaze to a Type 1 emergency management team on Monday evening.

Thomas says the communities of Colorado have been more than welcoming to his crews while they have been fighting fires in Boulder and Loveland.

"I have to say the overwhelming support of this group with all the cookies, all the socks, all the things we're getting. We are set for five more years of fire and four more pounds!" Thomas said Tuesday morning.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter announced $3 million in funding had been allocated to fight the fire on Monday, after declaring a state of emergency. The governor gave a verbal OK for the money on Sunday, and the authorization was signed by Senate President Brandon Shaffer on Monday since Ritter and Lt. Governor Barbra O'Brien were out of the state.

One firefighter was injured on Monday when he fell 10 feet into a ravine. Authorities say he lost consciousness briefly and suffered minor injuries, but was expected to be OK. There were no injuries reported on Tuesday.

People who need help because of the fire can call 211 to reach the United Way of Larimer County. You can also call that number if you want to volunteer to help or donate money.

Evacuees who need somewhere to stay, the American Red Cross has set up a center at the Church at Loveland at 38325 Southwest 14th Street.

The evacuation area also means that mail will not be delivered to about 170 rural Loveland addresses. The U.S. Postal Service says those customers can pick up their mail at the post office in downtown Loveland.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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