Colorado wildfire scorches more than 23,000 acres in one day — becoming the largest in state history

The Trump administration on Thursday denied California’s disaster declaration request as the state battles the largest wildfire in its history. At the same time, a fire in nearby Colorado was rapidly becoming the largest fire the state has ever seen. 

The Cameron Peak Fire, which has been burning since mid-August, exploded in size this week, surpassing 167,000 acres, to become the state’s largest-ever fire, Governor Jared Polis announced. Officials said the blaze has been stoked by unusually high winds, which have been exacerbated by climate change.

After a brief reprieve on Thursday, officials expect the fire to escalate again on Friday and Saturday, putting in place red flag warnings as 1,119 personnel actively battle the blaze. 

The fire is burning in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, near Fort Collins. Several communities and campgrounds in the area have been forced to evacuate, but so far, no injuries or deaths have been reported. 

View over Loveland, CO. #CameronPeakFire pic.twitter.com/k8rE0MOoRO

Some areas, including Larimer County, altered evacuation orders from voluntary to mandatory this week. 

“Residents and business occupants should evacuate the area immediately and as quickly as possible due to immediate and imminent danger,” the Sheriff’s Office warned Wednesday night. “Do not delay leaving to gather belongings or make efforts to protect your home or business.” 

The fire is just 56% contained. It has destroyed an unknown number of homes and buildings and its cause, which is currently unknown, is under investigation. 

On Wednesday, winds picked up to more than 70 miles per hour, spreading the flames across a whopping 23,000 acres in just one day. 

In an update, Paul Delmerico, the operations section chief for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, said that similar conditions were expected Friday, including high winds and low humidity, after a “successful day” battling the fire on Thursday. 

Absolutely unbelievable smoke from the #CameronPeakFire!

Look at the dark contrast between Loveland and Fort Collins. 🙏🏾 Prayers up for the firefighters and the residents impacted by it. pic.twitter.com/R9N9OgqG4s

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that we’re prepared for a fire advance,” he said. “Today is a very critical fire weather day. We’re gonna do the best we can to keep the fire from progressing south but keep in mind that public and firefighter safety is our number one priority.”

According to the U.S. drought monitor, the entire state of Colorado is facing some level of drought. 35% of the state faces severe drought and over 40% faces extreme drought. 

“Extreme weather and climate events have increased in frequency, intensity and severity as result of climate change and hit vulnerable communities disproportionately hard,” The United Nations said in a new report this week.

The Pine Gulch Fire, Colorado’s previous record-holder, burned over 139,000 acres this past summer. In California, officials are still battling the August Complex, which has scorched over 1 million acres since August and is the largest fire in California history.

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