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Peak 2 Wildfire questions, concerns addressed at public briefing

Evacuees attend 90-minute meeting Thursday night

Scott Harrison's PKG 070617

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. - Authorities were unable to answer the common questions from Peak 2 Wildfire evacuees -- when can they return home?

"We don't know," said Summit County Undersheriff Joel Cochran.  "It depends on what the fire does."

For 90 minutes Thursday night, fire managers and other local officials held a public briefing about the fire at Summit Middle School.

An estimated 125 people attended, asking questions and expressing concerns, with at least 500 watching the briefing streamed online.

Authorities said the fire is burning just a mile from the nearest homes, and a sudden wind change could make the fire spread quickly while posing a greater danger to lives and property.

However, firefighters expressed relief that the fire -- thanks to favorable weather conditions -- did not intensify Thursday after it ignited and spread quickly Wednesday.

Advance planning and a little luck were cited as factors in the firefighting effort.

"We've been practicing for a fire in this area for 10 years," said Ross Wilmore of the U.S. Forest Service.  'I think we're about as ready as we can be."

Jim Keating, of the Red, White and Blue Fire District in the Breckenridge area, said a team of smokejumpers prevented a late start by first responders.

"The team was on the way to a different fire and was able to to be diverted immediately," he said.  

Evacuees also learned that authorities are allowing representatives of some insurance carriers to patrol evacuated areas in separate firefighting vehicles, watching for fire activity and even doing some minor mitigation around homes.

"It's fairly rare," said Debbie Aragon, a local insurance agent.  "But it takes a lot of resources.  It'd be tough to keep up with every fire."

The emergency shelter at the the school had only three people Wednesday night and no one Thursday night. Evacuees are finding other places to stay, including with some homeowners who offered to host those in need.

Only three pets were being cared for an an emergency shelter in the area.

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