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Galena Fire Day 3 - Fire determined to be human caused

10:50 AM, Mar 17, 2013   |    comments
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FORT COLLINS - Authorities say the Galena Fire is 45 percent contained, as of Saturday night.

They say the fire is moving toward the west and authorities are concerned about an expected increase in wind overnight.

On Saturday, all evacuations for the Galena fire were lifted at 8 p.m. However, Nick Christensen, spokesman for the Larimer County Sheriff's Department, says residents should be prepared to evacuate, just in case the fire picks back up.

Sixty additional crews and a Type 2 helicopter arrived Saturday to help battle the 750 to 1,000-acre wildfire driven by erratic winds.

The Galena Fire was threatening more than 50 homes in northern Colorado on Friday and had prompted hundreds of evacuation orders.

Firefighters saved two homes and a state park visitor's center from flames, authorities said. They said no homes had been destroyed.

Fire officials say the fire was human caused. They say it started near the Lory Park area, and was set accidentally. Once the investigation by the Poudre Fire Authority and the Larimer County Sheriff's Department is complete, it will be turned over to the District Attorney's office for any possible charges.

The fire began Friday west of Fort Collins and was burning west of Horsetooth Reservoir.

There is an evacuation center set up at Cache la Poudre Elementary School. The Red Cross is on scene to assist evacuees.

Roads are blocked at Shoreline Drive and County Road 38E and Skyline and 38E on the south part of the fire evacuation area. Lodgepole Drive at Lory State Park is also closed. County Road 38E is open. South Bay, Inlet Bay, Lory State Park and Horsetooth Mountain Park remain closed.



The Larimer County Sheriff's Department said 860 phone lines got automated calls ordering evacuations Friday, but some addresses have multiple lines and other numbers were cellphones, so the exact number of homes in the evacuation area was not known.

Some people believed to be hiking in Lory State Park were unaccounted for, but sheriff's spokesman Nick Christensen said they were not believed to be in imminent danger. Park rangers were looking for them.

Some evacuations ordered earlier Friday were lifted.

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The wind initially pushed the fire north, prompting authorities to evacuate neighborhoods on the northwest side of the reservoir.

But the winds suddenly shifted to the south, and deputies and state troopers quickly barricaded another neighborhood on the southwest side of the reservoir that hadn't been officially evacuated.

"It's pretty ridiculous to shut things down and not let anyone know," said Mark Martina, a mortgage broker who was heading home to get his dog when he reached the new roadblock not far from his house.

When authorities began allowing some residents back in for brief visits to retrieve valuables, Martina said he planned to stay as long as necessary to collect birth certificates, guns and other important items.

"I'm not a complete idiot. I'm going to leave if it's coming close," he said.

Chicago resident Terry Jones and his family were in a vacation house they own when they saw smoke billowing toward them, and then officers pounded on their door and told them to leave.

Late Friday afternoon, as the sun turned hillsides pink and smoke obscured the reservoir, Jones was asked if he'd rather be back home in Chicago.

"No," he said. "Not even with the fire."


The fire came as much of the state dealt with drought conditions after a relatively dry winter. The snowpack in the mountains is low, leaving farmers wondering how many crops to plant and raising the possibility of lawn-watering restrictions along the Front Range.


Colorado's wildfire season also started in March last year.

"This is a really bad start," said Angela Dietrich, whose home was not in the fire's immediate path but was shrouded by smoke.

Firefighters controlled a second, smaller fire nearby earlier Friday.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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