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Firefighters make progress on Puma Fire in Park County

Size grows to 100 acres, containment at 35 percent

Crews make progress Tuesday fighting Puma Fire in Park County

PARK COUNTY, Colo. - The arrival of cooler temperatures and a forecast of wet weather could help crews control a wildfire burning since Sunday in a national forest near Lake George.

As of Monday afternoon, the U.S. Forest Service estimated the area burned by the fire had reached around 100 acres, while containment increased from 25 percent to 35 percent.

Dawn Sanchez, a Forest Service spokeswoman, said some of the increase in the burn zone is due to firefighters setting smaller fires to burn fuel that could intensify the main fire.

"We did around 40 acres worth of that overnight Monday," she said.  "Some areas are unsafe to send crews in because of large stands of dead trees."

The fire is burning six miles west of Lake George, near the popular 11 Mile State Park, an area that Sanchez said did not receive as much rain as other areas of southern Colorado did recently.

"Storms seem to miss this area," she said.  "It's still dry here and still considered in a drought condition."

Sachez said 150 firefighters responded to the fire, but around 25 were dismissed Tuesday, and aerial resources used Monday were not needed Tuesday.

"The nearest homes are a half-mile away in the opposite direction," she said.  "Those residents are on alert to be prepared to evacuate if conditions change.  For now, they're in no danger."

Carol Scarborough owns the Indigo Mountain Nature Center near the fire.

"I'm worried because it will be hard to get all the animals out if there's a quick evacuation," she said.  "We have a meadow that gives us some protection, but it may not be enough if the fire gets worse and changes direction."

Among the firefighters is a group of around 20 college-age students. 

"It's been quite an experience and very rewarding," said Chris Truong, from California.  "But I think I'd like to be more of a traditional firefighter."

Adam Bayer, from New York, said the experience satisfies his desire for adventure.

"It's the first time I've ever seen a tree go up (in flames) like fireworks," he said.

Rain fell in the area late Tuesday afternoon and winds kept smoke lower to the ground.  Rain and even snow are expected overnight Wednesday.

The Lake George area is no stranger to wildfires.  

Both the 2012 Springer Fire, which burned more than 1,000 acres, and the 2002 Hayman Fire, the largest in state history, started here.

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