Colorado’s largest wildfire has burned more than 200 homes

West

(U.S. Forest Service via AP)

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (NewsNation Now) — A wildfire that has scorched more than 208,000 acres since it started in mid-August, becoming the largest in Colorado history, has damaged or destroyed more than 200 homes, officials said.

The Cameron Peak Fire in northern Colorado had destroyed 426 buildings and damaged another eight, said David Moore, a spokesman for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. The affected buildings include 209 homes, 208 outbuildings and 17 buildings that were designated as businesses as part of the Shambhala Mountain Center, a meditation retreat in the mountains northwest of Fort Collins.

The fire ignited in arid and rugged terrain near Rocky Mountain National Park on Aug. 13 and has charred some of the most pristine land in the state. Fire investigators have not said what caused the blaze, which is 64% contained.

Damage assessment crews were combing the area after snow and cold weather put a damper on the fire over the weekend.

Meanwhile, crews were trying to determine how many homes were damaged and destroyed by Colorado’s second-largest recorded wildfire which forced evacuations and closed Rocky Mountain National Park.

The East Troublesome Fire, just southwest of the Cameron Peak Fire, has destroyed about 192,640 acres and is 20% contained.

The blaze forced thousands of people to flee their homes and burned part of Rocky Mountain National Park, but the full extent of the damages is not yet known. Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin has previously said there was “lots of structural loss” because of the fire but has declined to estimate the number of homes lost.

While snow is serving as a huge help in the East Troublesome Fire fight, it is presenting major difficulties in the mission to inform residents if their homes are still standing.

New viewer video shared with NewsNation affiliate KDVR shows a snow covered and the closed off Sun Valley Ranch. The footage shows a blanket of snow suffocating a smoldering hot spot.

“I know 100% it’s gone, I’ve seen pictures,” Colin McDowell, who owned a cabin near Sun Valley Ranch. said. “I want to go up there to see in person that it is totally gone but then I realize there’s snow up there and you probably not see anything but snow”

Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said Tuesday that snow is causing a slowdown in his crew’s process of surveying and notifying residents about damage. 

“Some places have a foot of snow, some have some inches, so they are trying to identify what is a house, what is a garage, what is an outdoor structure and if they can figure out what those are and then truly make sure that their assessment is on the correct land,” Schroetlin said.

As each day of surveying damage continues, the sheriff says numbers of devastated homes are rising.

“We’re finding more every direction that we turn around,” he said. “We get down these roads, we go in one direction things are looking up and then we find a house that is an unfortunate mishap.”

The town of Grand Lake, which was evacuated last week after the fire exploded in size, was not damaged, and no one is unaccounted for in the area burned by the fire.

Lyle and Marylin Hileman, aged 86 and 84, were found dead Friday after refusing to leave their home near Grand Lake. Their last known words were in a call to their son, saying that they would stay in their bunker.

Gov. Jared Polis said Friday that the East Troublesome Fire, which was reported Oct. 14, was likely caused by human activity.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KDVR contributed to this report.

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