LAKE GEORGE, Colo. – Fire crews took advantage of favorable weather to make progress for a second straight day against a fire that has burned 102,000 acres southwest of Denver.
Firefighters managed to contain about 30 percent of the blaze by Friday night, and about 100 people were allowed to go back home — the first group allowed to return.
It was the best progress made since the fire started a week ago, apparently from an illegal campfire.
"Today was a great day for firefighting. Everything went pretty well," said Keven Huffstutler, with the Rocky Mountain Coordination Center. "We took the offensive today and that's good. We just hope we can continue to do that."
But firefighters were fearful about the forecast Saturday. Winds were expected to be as high as 40 mph to the southwest, which would blow the fire toward several small mountain communities.
"It's supposed to be a nasty fire day ...," information officer Jeff Edmunds said.
Firefighters need to dig about 90 miles of lines to fully contain the flames, fire information officer Tony Diffenbaugh said.
"We're in a lot better shape," Diffenbaugh said. "That's not to say we're out of the woods yet. But the fire's intensity has gone down."
So far, the fire has cost about $4.4 million to fight. Officials said 25 homes and 13 outbuildings had been destroyed.
Some people were given permission to retrieve belongings Friday, but about 5,300 evacuees remained displaced. About 10,000 homes are considered at risk.
Small, no-stoplight towns, ranches, retreats and homes are set amid rolling hills covered by ponderosa pines, aspens and stunning rock formations. The communities are not threatened, but some of the isolated homes in the foothills are.
"Our house is so remote if anyone actually comes to it they'd be lost," said Paul Mitchell, who lives in a three-bedroom home on 40 acres. "We were worried the firefighters couldn't get to it. There's no street names."
Elsewhere in Colorado, fire crews on Friday built a solid defensible line on the eastern and western edges of a wildfire burning on more than 20,000 acres and threatening homes near Durango, in the southwestern corner of the state.
About 100 homes were evacuated and homeowners in five other subdivisions were on alert. No homes had been lost by evening, but the fire grew about 2,000 acres Friday.
And the Coal Seam Fire, burning near Glenwood Springs, was at 11,966 acres and was 30 percent contained. Forty structures were lost, including 28 homes.