At the informational meeting on the Hayman Fire tonight, Ron Raley was back providing updates on the fire. (Two days ago, his deputy was at the meeting instead. He was also very informed and very informative.) Raley said that the fire has now grown to about 137,000 acres.
In Raley’s words, the weather has been “absolutely horrendous” for the past few days, particularly yesterday. The high temperatures and low humidity that made yesterday brutal for the firefighters were, thankfully, a little more moderate today. (Also the fire mostly pushed a bit south and east towards Woodland Park today.)
Raley said that the fuel conditions in this fire were “the worst conditions that [he's] ever seen,” due to the low humidity present in the large quantity of fuels. We can thank this year’s drought for that.
The (4-6 foot hand) lines have held on the north and south sides of the fire (except for a break-out around “L”), but the east side of the fire is out of control. That east side did go through Westcreek yesterday. Many structures were burned, but many were saved. The fire did also cross Highway 67 in that area.
The most pressing danger for those of us north of the fire is that the out-of-control eastern edge may continue to move east, then turn northward towards various subdivisions like Perry Park. (The northernmost “U” and southernmost “W” bits of that eastern edge are of greatest concern in terms of break-out potential.) Raley said that under adverse weather conditions, the fire could reach Perry Park in 9-10 hours from its present position.
To address that risk, Raley said that firefighters are trying to pinch off the north side of that edge of the fire. There are also large contingency lines going in along Rampart Ridge to prevent the fire from moving towards those communities.
Here’s the map posted at the meeting, current as of this afternoon. Once again, we are near the bright green dot to the northeast of the fire.
Sergeant Dennis of the Douglas County Sheriff, who was also at the meeting two days ago, gave the news regarding Douglas County evacuations. The most interesting tidbit from him was that he was an advocate of returning people to their homes around areas northeast of the fire (“N”) where the line has held for many days — until the fire update meeting tonight.
There, he learned that the fire has a much greater potential to get out-of-control than he previously thought. In particular, the fire could encircle those neighborhoods (like Nighthawk) and then burn back on itself, thereby trapping any residents that were permitted to reoccupy their homes. After learning that, he could no longer in good conscience advocate returning people to their homes.
The third person to speak was Randy Hickenbottom, District Ranger for the South Platte Ranger District of the Forest Service. He presented some rather interesting information on the serious danger of flooding in the coming weeks and months in the burned areas. He said that 50-60% of the fire area has been intensively burned, meaning reduced to mineral soil and blackened sticks of tree trunks. In other words, over 60,000 acres in a serious watershed area have lost all erosion control. A heavy rain could cause flooding and mudslides, thereby threatening both life and property, even after the fire has been put out. Yikes!
So yet another informative meeting.
The best news of the evening is that on the drive home, I was driving through real rain! The storm looked to be mostly south, over the fire. There was lots of lightening, but also enough rain to keep my windshield wipers on low for the last seven minutes of my drive home. The rain seems to have stopped for now and the weather report indicates that the storm has moved on. Any little bit of wet is wonderful news!
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