(Updated 12:58 pm MST, 12/01/12)
In early October I wrote about the Fern Lake Fire that had started just west of Estes Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. Steep, hazardous terrain choked with beetle kill and deadfall has kept firefighters at bay since then, able to do little more than work the fire’s perimeter and pray for moisture. Fortunately the fire has not burned aggressively; mostly it has just smoldered and pouted some smoke east toward town.
Yesterday, however, the mountain winds kicked up as they are wont to do. This time of year they often bring in snow, but not this year and not yesterday. It was just high, dry wind, the kind that fires thrive on, and the Fern Lake Fire, which started two months ago, came to life. The helitanker was grounded by the high winds, which are expected to continue today; the National Weather Service issued a high wind warning in effect until 11 a.m. today, with sustained winds up to 45 mph and gusts up to 75 mph possible.
The fire has grown to 1,500 acres (2.5 square miles) with 40% containment. There are 61 personnel assigned but they’ve been temporarily pulled out of the area for fear of falling trees.
At last report the fire had not crossed Bear Lake Road. Highway 66 and all adjacent streets including the YMCA, High Drive and all adjacent streets, and the west side of Mary’s Lake Road up to Moraine Avenue are closed, as is the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The park’s housing area, park headquarters, the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, and Moraine Park Campground have been evacuated, in addition to 583 homes in the area.
The Denver Post this morning reports that the fire was spotting a mile ahead of itself and that Moraine Park (a mountain “park” is a large meadow or open area; see map), some 600 acres, had been consumed. RMNP spokeswoman Traci Weaver said, “It spread through timber pockets and got into the upper canopy of some trees, but firefighters were able to ‘knock it down’ out of the trees.”
The updated DP story includes the following photo, confirming that the fire burned into Moraine Park:
As when the fire started on October 9, the only real hope for putting it out is winter snow, and we’ve had almost none this fall. November is supposed to be our second snowiest month, but this year we saw only a few flurries in Denver. The only measurable ground-whitening snow was two days in early October. Temperatures through November were mostly in the 60s.
This year I’m in league with the skiers: Think snow!
(For latest updates, see InciWeb.)
- Winds keep crews, copters off Fern Lake Fire (kktv.com)
- Strong winds fuel Fern Lake fire, force evacuations (denverpost.com)
- Smoke Jumpers Battle Gusty Winds Fueling Fern Lake Fire (denver.cbslocal.com)
- Parts of Estes Park evacuated as high winds spread Fern Lake Fire (northfortynews.com)
- Dry weather gives fresh life to Fern Lake fire (denverpost.com)
- Wind-driven wildfire leads to Estes Park evacuations (gazette.com)