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Snow in Colorado expected to put damper on wildfires

"We don’t anticipate it will be a season-ending event, but we do believe it will help us a great bit," said a fire incident spokesman.
Flames rise from mountain ridges on Oct. 22, 2020, near Granby, Colo.
Flames rise from mountain ridges on Thursday near Granby, Colorado.David Zalubowski / AP

A bit of normalcy was expected to return to the mountains of Colorado after relatively warm, dry and windy conditions on Saturday continued to fuel the two largest wildfires in state history.

Snow was expected overnight, transforming the atmosphere from red-flag fire weather to winter in a matter of hours, forecasters said.

"We’re going from critical fire danger ending at 7 p.m. to a midnight winter storm watch," said Boulder-based National Weather Service meteorologist Evan Direnzo.

Snow has already started to fall in the Bellaire Lakes area where the Cameron Peak Fire is burning. At 207,464 acres, Cameron Peak is the state's largest-ever wildfire. It started Aug. 13 and was 60 percent contained Saturday.

But firefighters still had their hands full as wind gusts up to 60 mph spread flames from the 189,389-acre East Troublesome Fire near the area of Estes Park. Of particular concern was the YMCA of the Rockies, where tourists often lodge, said fire incident spokesman Christopher Joyner.

"We are still fighting an active fire and there’s still a very dangerous situation here," he said, adding that East Troublesome was 4 percent contained Saturday.

New evacuations were in effect for both fires, Joyner said.

The East Troublesome fire claimed the lives of Lyle and Marilyn Hileman, 86 and 84 years old, whose bodies were recovered Friday, authorities said. No other fire-related deaths or injuries were reported by officials Saturday.

The Cameron Peak Fire was only about 10 miles away, but officials said they did not believe the two would merge.

Forecasters said a foot of snow was likely to hit the fire areas overnight. Yet warmer, drier conditions could return midweek, they said.

"We don’t anticipate it will be a season-ending event, but we do believe it will help us a great bit," Joyner said of the coming snowfall.

"We know it’s going to buy us a few days," said Cass Cairns, a multi-agency spokeswoman for the Cameron Peak Fire, "and that’s big."