A bit of normalcy was expected to return to the Colorado mountains after relatively hot, dry and windy conditions on Saturday continued to feed the two largest forest fires in the state’s history.
Snow was expected overnight, transforming the atmosphere from red-flagged fire to winter in a matter of hours, forecasters said.
“We are leaving a critical fire hazard that ends at 19, to a winter watch storm watch, ”said Boulder-based meteorologist Evan Direnzo, National Weather Service.
Snow has already begun to fall in the Bellaire Lakes area, where Cameron Peak Fire is burning. At 207,464 acres, Cameron Peak is the state̵
But firefighters still had their hands full as gusts of wind up to 60 mph scattered flames from the eastern troublesome fire of 189,389 acres near the Estes Park area. Of particular concern was the YMCA of the Rockies, where tourists often stay, Fire Department spokesman Christopher Joyner said.
“We are still struggling with an active fire and there is still a very dangerous situation here,” he said, adding that East Troublesome was 4 percent contained Saturday.
New evacuations were in place for both fires, Joyner said.
The eastern troublesome fire claimed the lives of Lyle and Marilyn Hileman, 86 and 84, 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 15 miles away, but officials said they did not believe the two would merge.
Forecasts said a foot of snow would likely hit the fire areas overnight. Still, warmer, drier conditions could return in the middle of the week, they said.
“We do not expect it to be an end to the season, but we think it will help us a lot,” Joyner said of the upcoming snowfall.
“We know it’s going to buy us a few days,” said Cass Cairns, a spokeswoman for several agencies for Cameron Peak Fire. “And it’s big.”