DENVER (AP) — A pair of wildfires in northern Colorado set records as the largest and second-largest in the state’s history, burning nearly 630 square miles of land and hundreds of structures.
The Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado’s recorded history, has been largely contained after 79 days in which nearly 327 square miles (847 square kilometers) of land burned. The fire prompted evacuation orders for thousands of people and burned 442 structures, about half of them homes.
The East Troublesome Fire, which came within a few miles of the Cameron Peak Fire further north, became the second-largest wildfire in state history with about 302 square miles (782 square kilometers) burned. The fire has not grown significantly since a storm dropped several inches of snow across the area Oct. 25.
All evacuation orders for the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires areas in Larimer County were lifted Monday morning. Despite the end of evacuations, Rocky Mountain National Park and the much of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest remained closed.
Over the weekend, crews conducted “search and destroy″ missions by flying drones to visible smoke and marking the coordinates for crews to move in and extinguish the fire. Receding snow has allowed more fire crews to access hot spots, officials said.
Crews are expected to continue monitoring fire areas and extinguishing isolated hot spots and smoke until snow finally puts an end to the fire season, officials said.
Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said Sunday that many residents returned to their homes for the first time since the outbreak of the East Troublesome Fire.
More than 300 homes and between 100 and 200 secondary structures including barns and garages were destroyed by the wildfire, Schroetlin said.
“I will never forget watching a family return to their house for that first time,” Schroetlin said in a statement. “Parents trying to find anything they can to move forward, children trying to find that favorite toy, and each grieving in their own way.”