Rocky Mountain National Park

High Winds Double Size of Rocky Mountain National Park's Fern Lake Wildfire

Sunday, December 02 2012 12:54   Rocky Mountain
High winds on Saturday morning, Dec. 1, 2012, more than doubled the size of the Fern Lake Fire within Rocky Mountain National Park, with no containment of the blaze in sight, the National Park Service said.

Areas of Estes Park have been evacuated, and other areas are in pre-evacuation mode. The fire is burning roughly 10 miles west of the town.

rm_treetop_flames_11_27_12The fire was mapped at approximately 3,584 acres on Saturday, and spread three miles in 35 minutes around 1 a.m. on Dec. 1. There have been rapid rates of spread, including spotting, individual/group torching and crown runs. High winds were expected to return Sunday afternoon.

As of late Saturday, the fire was less than 20 percent contained. There is no estimation for full containment at this time. A park service spokesperson said the winds were mostly blowing from west to east, with wind direction shifting at times.

Firefighters were expected to conduct burn out operations in Moraine Park on Sunday.

The east side of the park is closed to visitors, including the entrances on state routes 36 and 34. Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is closed, as is the Moraine Park Visitor Center which is being used for firefighter staging and as the incident command center.

The west side of Rocky Mountain National Park remains open, however, and the Kawuneeche Visitor Center is open. The Alpine Visitor Center closed for the winter season.

Smoke from the fire has been impacting the area especially during the evening hours. Approximately 150 personnel are working on the fire and more resources are on the way. So far, no injuries have been reported. One private cabin is confirmed lost in Moraine Park, within Rocky Mountain National Park.

Two heavy air tankers are on order however, they were not able to fly Saturday due to the weather conditions in California where they are stationed. Air support assigned to the fire was not used due to gusty winds.

Structure protection is being provided by many local fire departments. Cooperating lead agencies are the National Park Service, Larimer County Sheriff's Department, the Town of Estes Park and the Estes Valley Fire Protection District.

The scope and necessity of evacuations is continuously evaluated, according to the park service. At this time, only individuals with a medical necessity are allowed to re-enter the evacuation area of the Highway 66 corridor with an escort from the Sheriff's office.

The Highway 66 corridor, including all adjacent streets, remains in evacuation. Power is still on in the Highway 66 corridor. Residents of High Drive and adjacent streets have been notified that they are now on pre-evacuation notice. The residents in this area may return home, presenting identification to law enforcement at the High Drive road block. No others will be allowed in the area.

The fire began on Oct. 9, 2012, west of Estes Park and has been growing since them. Cause of the fire is under investigation. The potential for the fire to grow is rated as high, the park service said


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