USA — A wildfire that has been burning for nearly two months in Rocky Mountain National Park jumped its containment lines Friday night, and more than doubled in size, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people Saturday.
ESTES PARK, Colo. A wildfire that has been burning for nearly two months in Rocky Mountain National Park jumped its containment lines Friday night, and more than doubled in size, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people Saturday.
Those evacuations were still in place Monday morning with winds as high as 60 miles per hour blowing through the night.
Traci Weaver, an information officer for the Fern Lake Fire said firefighters are still holding the fire lines within the Rocky Mountain National Park boundaries. A Type I Management Team arrived Sunday to take over management of fire operations.
Weaver confirmed on Monday that the south, east and north lines Monday morning. The fire had burned 4,400 acres as of Monday morning after ballooning from 1,515 acres to 3,584 from Friday to Saturday.
Fire activity increased Sunday afternoon on the south side of the fire, just west of Steep Mountain due to strong, gusty winds. Firefighters made significant progress on the north side of the fire from Bear Lake Road west, along Cub Lake Road to the Fern Lake Trailhead, according to the most recent fire update.
The fire, which started Oct. 9, was 40 percent contained before it blew up, but containment has been reduced to 20 percent, officials say.
The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag warning Sunday, which meant that there was an increased fire danger in the area, especially because winds were expected to pick up to around 60 mph Sunday afternoon.
Saturday night, pre-evacuation notices were sent to the Marys Lake Road area, including the area from Moraine Avenue and Rock Ridge Road South to Highway 7 and Fish Creek Road. The pre-evacuation notice includes both the east and west sides of Marys Lake Road.
The Highway 66 corridor and all adjacent streets remain in evacuation, while residents of High Drive Road and adjacent streets remain on a pre-evacuation notice.
Weaver said residents should be aware that pre-evacuation and evacuation notices could be expanded due to wind forecasts for this evening.
The evacuation center moved from Estes Park High School to the Mountain View Bible Fellowship at 5 p.m. on Sunday. The Mountain View Bible Fellowship is located at 1575 South Saint Vrain Avenue, at the corner of Peak View Drive.
There are now approximately 200 people fighting the fire, which increased from the 61 people who helped battle the blaze on Saturday. Additional hot shot crews with 20 members each, and two additional helicopters were ordered to fight the flames.
The stubborn fire forced 700 homes to evacuate in three areas: Highway 66 and all adjacent streets including the YMCA campground; High Drive and all adjacent streets, and Marys Lake Road up to Moraine Ave. to Marys Lake on the west side.
Later Saturday morning, residents in the last two areas were allowed to return home. They are still on pre-evacuation status, meaning they need to be ready to leave again at a moments notice.
People came in, they were like we can see the glow on the ridge, were leaving, leave the food, leave your stuff, get in a car, go. Thats when it hit. It was close, said Noelle Martinez, a Colorado State University student who was at a sign language retreat and had to evacuate from the YMCA campgrounds.
She and her friend, Kelsey Knippe, found refuge in their cars in the parking lot of the evacuation center located at Estes Park High School.
I never experienced an evacuation before, so it was kind of scary, Knippe said, who is also a CSU student.
More than 250 evacuees show up at the shelter, according to the Red Cross.
Evacuee Ann Vernon lives near the YMCA and cant believe her life is in limbo because of a wildfire that wont die.
This has been going on two months, so its frustrating we didnt get a handle on it before, Vernon said.
But she and others understand why the fire has been so hard to contain.
It is so dry now. Its eerie. We havent had moisture in two months. Its just the same as the summer and as dangerous, she said.
The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.