Gusty winds fan big Rocky Mountain wildfires, spread embers

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Two big Rocky Mountain wildfires flared up again Monday as dry, gusty winds blew embers past areas where firefighters had been making progress.

Firefighters at the Mullen Fire on the Wyoming-Colorado line and the Cameron Peak Fire in northern Colorado struggled as winds picked up in the afternoon as expected.

No more structures were reported lost, however. Over 100 mainly recreational cabins and other structures have burned since the fires began.

The Mullen Fire 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Cheyenne was especially active Monday on its northern flanks, forcing firefighters to fall back and reassess in places, fire operations section chief trainee Deon Steinle said in a news conference.

Areas of concern included Albany, a cabin community of 55 people at a popular access point for Medicine Bow National Forest.

“Firefighters are working hard — really hard — to keep things contained. Not a lot of luck this afternoon,” Steinle said.

The Mullen Fire also remained active to the south but still contained behind two Colorado state highways. Firefighters last week took advantage of calmer weather to intentionally burn out timber and brush along the highways, creating wider barriers to fire than just the pavement.

A drone flying with an infrared camera has been helping firefighters at night find and put out small spot fires ahead of the main fire.

The almost 240-square-mile (620-square-kilometer) fire was 14% contained, while the nearly 200-square-mile (510-square-kilometer) Cameron Peak Fire 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Fort Collins, Colorado was 42% contained.

Gusty wind was also putting firefighters on the defensive against the fire burning through the Cache la Poudre River drainage north of and partly inside Rocky Mountain National Park, Cameron Peak Fire operations trainee John Norton-Jensen said in a Monday briefing.

About 25 miles (40 kilometers) of mountainous forest with little human development separated the fires. Firefighters didn’t expect the fires to connect but evacuation orders were in place for large areas of Medicine Bow, Routt, and Arapaho and Roosevelt national forests.

The Cameron Peak Fire was first reported Aug. 13, followed by the Mullen Fire on Sept. 17.

The fires were unusually intense for October, when cold temperatures and snow have usually brought fire season to an end.

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