Maxwell Fire now 80 percent contained

Elsha Kirby addresses the media at a June 27 press conference.
Photo by Sarah Simmons

Firefighters have made progress containing the Maxwell Fire this week, and they now have the blaze 80 percent contained.

After a reconnaissance flight on Monday, fire officials determined that the fire that began Sunday was 40 percent contained thanks to groundwork by firefighters and high humidity levels.

The fire began Sunday afternoon around 5:39 p.m. near the 3.7 mile marker of Lefthand Canyon Drive on U.S. Forest Service land.

U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Elsha Kirby said the weather today afforded the almost 200 firefighters working on the Maxwell Fire the chance to make some headway.

“Talk about opportunity,” Kirby said at a 3 p.m. press conference on Monday at the intersection of Olde Stage Road and Lefthand Canyon Drive. “40 percent humidity today, more than we originally anticipated. We’re hoping that the weather tomorrow holds up.”

Even with little wind and high humidity, the fire continues to burn around 60 acres, and Kirby said firefighters are keeping various resources, including two helicopters and air tankers, ready should the fire spread.

“We have reserved the opportunity to use the tankers tomorrow if we need to,” Kirby said on Monday. “Our main priority is to make sure that we keep a secured perimeter, especially on the south side so it doesn’t slop over Lefthand road.”

Cmdr. Rick Brough of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office said the only evacuations made since the fire began were along Lefthand Canyon Drive.

“We’ve continued to have evacuations along Lefthand Canyon Drive,” he said. “That’s about two to three residents, so those are the only ones that are mandatory.”

While Lefthand Canyon Drive continues to be closed, the lower part of Lefthand Canyon Drive between Highway 36 and Olde Stage Road is a soft closure, meaning only residents are allowed, and above Olde Stage Road to James Canyon is a hard closure, closed off to everyone.

These closures, Brough said, are for the safety of the firefighters and their equipment along the roads.

An investigation determined that an abandoned campfire located 50 feet north of Lefthand Canyon Drive ignited the fire.

As a result of the findings and the fact that this is the third fire in Lefthand Canyon this year, the Forest Service is “taking a hard look at what has happened the past few months including current uses and their impacts,” according to the Forest Service’s Incident Information System.