Fighting a forest fire in the snow may seem odd to outsiders unfamiliar with the challenges that face today’s firefighters but that’s what’s unfolding in northern Colorado.
Snow, cold temperatures and plenty of hard work by fire crews have nearly knocked down the Fern Lake Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, oldwestnewwest.com, Cheyenne, Wyo., reported.
As of Monday (Dec. 10) with the fire roughly 88% contained, officials opened the park on a limited basis. Visitors may enter the park through Highway 34, the Fall River Entrance, and Highway 36, the Beaver Meadows Entrance.
The road is open to Many Parks Curve, the normal winter closure point on Trail Ridge Road. Bear Lake Road will remain closed until further notice because of fire operations.
Upper Beaver Meadows, Hidden Valley, and trails leading into the area around the Fern Lake Fire remain closed. Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Fall River Visitor Center is open weekends from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
All pre-evacuation and evacuation orders have been lifted and all residents have been allowed to return to their homes. The town of Estes Park and all its businesses are open for visitors and holiday shopping.
By Monday evening, snow accumulations were 4 to 6 inches in the fire area. The snow cover will prevent further spread, although the fire will continue to smolder in heavy fuels, officials said.
Cold temperatures, with heavy snow, forced firefighters from the fireline because of safety concerns.
Crews removed debris created by fire line construction along the northeast perimeter, and removed fire hose laid out to protect structures in, and in the vicinity of, the YMCA. Crews and equipment continue to be demobilized, as fire suppression objectives are met. Adequate firefighting resources are being retained to continue suppression efforts, if fire behavior increases.
The fire started on Oct. 9, but because of its location in dense forest and away from property, the fire was fought with firefighter safety in mind.
Full containment of the fire should be by Dec. 31, officials estimated. As of Monday morning, the size of the fire was 3,498 acres. One structure was lost, and no injuries have been reported. The cost of the fire to date, according to National Park Service officials, is $6 million. The cause of the fire is under investigation.