Sky-Hi News staff report

Big Meadows fire swells to 400 acres inside Rocky Mountain National Park

GRAND LAKE — A fire that started Monday on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park had increased in size from two acres to an estimated 300-400 acres by late evening on Tuesday, June 11.
A reconnaissance flight on Tuesday afternoon showed the fire moving to the northeast toward Nakai Peak. Park officials reported no communities or structures were threatened.
The fire spread on Tuesday afternoon due to a spot fire spawning from the original two-acre blaze. “It is increasing in size due to winds, low humidity and beetle killed trees,” wrote Parks spokesperson Kyle Patterson in an update on Tuesday.
On the north end of Big Meadows on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, the fire was reported around 5 p.m. on Monday, June 10. Lightning started the fire, according Park officials.
The fire, dubbed the Big Meadows Fire is located roughly three miles north of the Kawuneeche Visitors Center and four miles in from Trail Ridge Road.
The growing fire caused highly visible smoke that could be seen as far as Granby and beyond on Tuesday.
“Although this looks like the same location as the Fern Lake Fire in the Forest Canyon area it is from the Big Meadows Fire west of the Continental Divide,” Patterson wrote.
Fire managers have ordered resources for added response to the fire including an interagency helicopter and an interagency fire crew consisting of Park staff and U.S. Forest Service staff. The fire crew hiked roughly 4.5 miles on Monday from the Green Mountain Trailhead to assess the fire, according to Patterson. The crew hiked back out on Monday night. The crews returned to the Fire on Tuesday to complete suppression efforts.
According to Park officials, fire managers completed an assessment of the fire Monday night and decided to suppress the fire when safe to do so. It is preferred to allow naturally occurring fires to burn for the benefit of the resource and future fire breaks, though extended drought conditions and reduced interagency resources have prompted fire managers to suppress fire rather than let it burn.
Park managers look at each naturally occurring fire on a case-by-case basis when determining how to best manage a fire, Patterson said.
Fuel moisture content is relatively high. Smoke jumpers are staged nearby in case their assistance is needed. Firefighters will be using minimum impact tools to suppress smoldering grass and other dead and down material.
All parties who had permits to camp in the area had been escorted out of the area.

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The VailDaily Updated Jun 14, 2013 08:52PM Published Jun 12, 2013 03:47PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.