The Cameron Peak fire continued to explode late Friday and officials braced for a long weekend.
Cass Cairns, public information officer for the Cameron Peak fires, said firefighters were "experiencing extreme fire activity" and some fire crews were being pulled back from the most dangerous areas.
Firefighters have been extracted from Miller Creek, The Retreat, and Storm Mountain for their safety, as flames move south and east, Cairns said.
Support planes and helicopters were grounded Friday afternoon due to high winds, Cairns said.
Since igniting on Aug. 13, the fire has grown into the largest wildfire in the state’s history as its engulfed 173,536 acres despite the 1,119 firefighters from multiple agencies battling the flames.
Despite their efforts, only 57% of the blaze is contained.
A red flag warning that was issued Thursday by the National Weather Service because of dry conditions and high speeds remains in effect into the weekend.
The eastern section of the fire could see winds speeds of up to 50 mph through Saturday, and the western side could see speeds of up to 70 mph, said Frank Cooper, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Boulder.
Due to the wind “all of our air suppression aircraft have been grounded at this time,” said Cairns said.
On Friday, the Department of Transportation closed portions of U.S. Highway 34 in Big Thompson Canyon to allow residents to evacuate. The closure to through-traffic extended from Mall Road in Estes Park to the Dam Store, which is 10 miles west of Loveland.
A mandatory evacuation order along U.S. Highway 34 from the Dam Store to just west of Soul Shine Road was also announced on Friday.
Three other voluntary evacuations were announced including Pinewood Reservoir to Flatiron Reservoir, and County Road 29 to the west side of County Road 27, which is just north of U.S. Highway 34, officials said.
Over the last 72-hours, 19 evacuation orders have been issued, including for Lory State Park, Glen Haven, Bobcat Ridge Natural Area and Horsetooth Mountain Park.
With these evacuation orders in place and with the flames continue to spread, authorities are urging anyone traveling to the area to stay away.
“We ask that anyone who does not need to be on or around this area, stay away,” Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shoshana Lew said. “There are a lot of people who need to get out of this area safely as this fire has escalated very quickly.”
On Wednesday, two hundred additional fire engines were requested to assist in containing the fire, officials said.
“We’re beefing up our resources,” Cairns said. “We’re going to fight where we can fight, and hold back when we have to”
Although the eastern edge of the fire is inching towards cities such as Fort Collins, Estes Park or Loveland, officials do not believe the flames will reach the municipalities. But if it happens, officials are ready.
“We have plans if that contingency were to arise,” said Jered Kramer, a spokesperson for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said.