Snow and cold helped crews make progress on a northern Colorado wildfire that has destroyed about 15 homes, but a federal team that took over operations Monday was bracing for warmer, windier weather.
Roughly 200 firefighters were battling the 5-square-mile blaze about 15 miles west of Fort Collins. Two helicopters dumped water from nearby Horsetooth Reservoir and planes helped pinpoint hot spots in the hilly, rugged terrain.
"We're taking this fire very seriously until it's completely out," Nick Christensen of the Larimer County sheriff's department told The Denver Post.
Firefighters built containment lines around 15 percent of the fire, which started Friday and exploded from 25 acres Saturday night when the winds reach 50 mph and higher.
More accurate mapping Monday showed the fire has burned 3,200 acres rather than the estimated 4,500 reported earlier.
Snow and shifting winds helped calm the fire Sunday and residents forced from more than 300 homes were allowed to return. However, forecasts for warmer, windier weather Tuesday had fire managers on guard. A red-flag warning, signaling high fire danger, was issued through Tuesday night.
Wildfires have broken out in Colorado the past several weeks in the foothills and plains on the east side of the Rockies, where below-average moisture since late summer has dried out grasses, trees and brush. In March, two fires on the outer reaches of the Denver area forced thousands out of their homes.
The two fires were believed to be human-caused and were driven by the high winds typical for the area in the spring.
Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a disaster declaration Monday to authorize $1.7 million in state aid to help cover the costs of fighting the fire near Fort Collins.
Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com