Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze announced a partial lift of his evacuation order just after 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Rescinding of the evacuation order includes all residents of Fawn Ridge subdivision, residents evacuated from CR 110, 111, 111a, residents of Mountain Vista Estates (Paradise Acres) and the residences above Mountain Vista Estates accessed from CR 104.
The evacuation order also is rescinded for residents living east of CR 104, accessed from private drives south of U.S. 50 with the exception of residents living on CR 101, Bear Creek.
Chaffee County residents living on CR 101 remain under an evacuation order.
Re-entry into Fawn Ridge as well as CR 110, 111 and 111a will be allowed at the checkpoint at CR 110-111. No re-entry will be allowed on CR 111 from U.S. 50. Residents on CR 104 will be checked in at the current checkpoint on CR 104.
Residents will be required to show evac-issued credentials or valid identification.
Residents allowed back into their homes remain under pre-evacuation status and are reminded to be ready to evacuate if the need arises.
All county residents are reminded that fire and smoke will still be visible; the fire is still active in the affected area.
The type 1 team will be burning control lines in the affected area. These, too, will be visible.
All evacuated residents will be notified of a meeting soon to discuss fire progress.
The Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office Command Post moved Sunday to CR 107-108. Residents of Methodist Estates and Boot Hill will respond to this new location for escorts into their homes.
A Sheriff’s Office checkpoint will continue to block the Methodist/powerline road evacuation area at CR 108. And Sheriff’s Office personnel will continue to patrol the evacuation area round the clock.
The Sheriff’s Office is keeping in close touch with the Type 1 leadership; as soon as it is safe to do so, residents of Methodist evacuation area will be granted full access back to their homes.
The partial lift of the evacuation came on the heels of a busy weekend that saw some good news.
With high, red-flag warning winds expected Saturday, Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper put Howard, Swissvale, Wellsville and Pine Ridge on pre-evacuation notice on Friday. At a public meeting later that day at the Howard Fire Department, Cooper said the pre-evac was an “in case” type of thing.
“I don’t want you folks to be caught flat footed,” Cooper said.
He also advised people to move their livestock ahead of time. If an evacuation was ordered, he said people wouldn’t have time to move them. People can take their animals to the Chaffee County Fairgrounds if they need a place.
If the fire reaches a certain action point, firefighters would consider evacuating the Howard area, depending on factors like the anticipated weather, said fire public information officer John Ashford.
Mike Tombolatto, operations sections chief, said the fire was 2-3 miles from the action point, which was about 3 miles to Howard.
Howard, however, postponed its Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday.
“We figured it wasn’t a good time to celebrate when people are worried about losing their houses,” said Dave Van Etten, president of the Howard Hall Association. “We’ll wait until later when we can celebrate the end of the Decker Fire.”
Ashford said there was a lot of backing fire on Saturday and no large group torching. Backing fire is the low-intensity fire that helps clean the forest floor. Most of the backing fire took place on the west side, division A, going downhill.
“That’s the kind of fire that’s productive,” Ashford said, noting that it’s safer to fight and isn’t hot enough to toss embers up ahead of the fire.
Without any areas of intense burning, Ashford said, there also wasn’t as much smoke production Saturday.
At a public meeting Saturday in Salida, Spezze said the day would be “pivotal” with the expected high winds.
“My priority is public safety and getting evacuees back in as soon as possible,” he said. For some people, soon was the next day.
The sheriff also confirmed the first lost structure in Chaffee County, a cabin on Methodist Mountain.
The weather is expected to continue to be favorable today with calmer winds. It’s still dry, but without the wind to push the fire, Ashford said the weather forecast was “really good news.”
“It’s looking good for the wind, which give us options for tactics,” he said.
The lack of wind will provide some opportunities for aerial ignitions, putting fire on the ground to take out some fuels.
Shawna Hartman, another public information officer with the fire, said the reduced winds allowed helicopters to take flight on Sunday.
“There was a lot of aviation today to cool hot spots close to the line,” she said.
On the north end of the fire, at the bottom of Methodist Mountain, crews worked to build direct lines right next to the fire on Sunday.
“They’re making sure it’s cool so they can be confident it won’t cross that line,” Hartman said.
Crews also dug hand lines to improve the dozer lines on the west side of the fire and scouted places to build an indirect line between the fire and Howard. There were 806 people helping to fight the fire on Sunday.
The Bureau of Land Mangement has temporally closed its lands south of U.S. 50 between Poncha Springs and Howard. Ashford said their recommendation for hunters and others considering scouting or camping in the area was to pay attention to closures and stay out of the fire area.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is urging people not to park along the highways near the fire. CDOT reduced the speed limits on U.S. 50 and U.S. 285 near the fire: a 7-mile stretch on U.S. 50 is now 40 mph, and a 4-mile stretch on U.S. 285 is now 50 mph.
The Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center is staying open and offering firefighters and evacuees free showers from 7-10 a.m. and 4-7p.m.
The Salida Rotary Scout Hut is also providing resources and information to evacuees and others. It will be open from 4-7 p.m. today through Wednesday. The Red Cross moved its services to the Scout Hut on Sunday as well.
The Double J Cross Kennel in Centerville is currently providing temporary shelter for dogs and cats at no charge for evacuees of the Decker Fire.