| Fort Collins Coloradoan
ESTES PARK, Colo. — Firefighters face another day of critical danger Saturday as the Cameron Peak Fire, the biggest wildfire in Colorado history, continues to rage in the mountains west of Fort Collins and Loveland.
The wildfire measured more than 270 square miles Friday night as more strong winds kept firefighting aircraft on the ground and forced evacuations along a highway leading to Rocky Mountain National Park. The fire is 57% contained as of Saturday morning.
A red flag warning predicting another day of gusty winds and low humidity is in place for the fire area through 6 p.m. local time Saturday, when a cold front is expected to move over the Front Range, bringing with it lower daytime highs and reduced winds.
But first, gusts as high as 50 mph are expected across the burn area, with winds of up to 70 mph above 9,000 feet. Widespread smoke is also expected to increase in Loveland and into the Denver metro area Saturday, and air quality in the Fort Collins area is expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups until Sunday brings some expected clearing.
More: Cameron Peak Fire becomes largest wildfire in Colorado history, growing more than 20,000 acres in a day
The wildfire started in mid-August in the high country 30 miles west of Fort Collins and has persisted despite getting over 1 foot of snow on Labor Day. It was over 50% contained before this week’s flare-ups.
It set the state’s record for the largest fire after strong winds Tuesday night and Wednesday morning caused it to grow by more than 40 square miles.
Wildfire map: Track smoke, fire from Cameron Peak Fire
The fire has burned at least 100 structures, though damage assessment teams expect that number to grow after this week’s significant fire activity. Its cause is believed to stem from human activity, but remains under investigation.
Meanwhile, 25 miles to the north of the Cameron Peak Fire, firefighters were also watching a windy forecast at the Mullen Fire on the Colorado-Wyoming line. That fire has grown to more than 270 square miles and with 53% containment as of the last reporting. It has damaged 66 structures, and its cause remains under investigation.
Below, these photos show the intensity of smoke as the Cameron Peak Fire rages across
Contributing: Associated Press