GRAND LAKE — The Big Meadows Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park did not see very much activity Wednesday. Reconnaissance flights that used infrared imaging of the fire around midnight on Wednesday revealed the size of the fire to be 333 acres, according to Clark McCreedy, a pubic information officer with the Rocky Mountain Area Incident Management Team A, the Type II team that has assumed responsibility of the fire.
Shane Del Grosso, incident commander, accepted management of the Big Meadows Fire at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, according to an update issued from Park officials around noon on Wednesday. An Incident Command Post has been established at Middle Park High School in Granby.
Fire officials and school officials cautioned the use of the high school’s facilities and parking lots while the high school acts as the fire’s incident command post.
Fire trucks and numerous fire personnel will be coming and going from the high school regularly until the incident command post is disassembled. Motorists are asked to stay alert while on roads in the area as traffic will increase due to firefighting efforts.
“Keep alert and don’t get hurt,” McCreedy said.
McCreedy extended a thank you to the community and the school for allowing the firefighting teams to use the school as an incident command post.
Firefighting resources on the fire now include a National Park Service initial attack module of seven persons, two interagency 20-person hotshot crews, and 10 fire engines. Available air resources include an ‘air attack’ small plane used for reconnaissance, three light helicopters, a medium helicopter, and one large heavy helicopter. Fire officials have also ordered an additional 20-person hotshot crew.
Forecasts for the end of the week call for winds from 12 to 18 mph with gusts as high as 30 mph and the chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon that could bring dry lightening and gusty winds, McCreedy said.
Due to the remote location of the fire, the rugged terrain the fire is burning in, and the potential for erratic winds, the air resources that are being used could potentially be grounded, making firefighting efforts difficult.
The Big Meadows Fire is located approximately five miles north of the community of Grand Lake, and three miles east of Trail Ridge Road (Highway 34). The fire was caused by lightning and is burning in mixed conifer forest types with a component of beetle-killed trees in lodgepole pine, which are estimated to make up 80 percent of the trees in the area.
The fire’s activity has been limited to hot-spots of downed fuels with isolated tree torching, according to McCreedy.
Firefighters will concentrate efforts today within two divisions, one working primarily on the northwest flank of the fire and another working along the southern flank. Firefighters along the southern flank will be installing firehose lays to support efforts to strengthen containment along Tonahutu Creek. The management objective remains to hold the fire east of Trail Ridge Road (Highway 34), west of the Continental Divide, and north of Tonahutu Creek.
Grand Lake is not in immediate danger due to the fire’s current distance from the village, according to Ben Bobowski, chief of resources services for Rocky Mountain National Park, who commented the reason for ordering certain firefighting services was to prevent the fire from progressing towards Grand Lake.
“It doesn’t have a straight shot (to Grand Lake) right now,” Bobowski said. “It is possible it could, and that is why we ordered Type II teams.”
While the fire is burning in a remote area of the park and currently does not pose danger to Grand Lake, the forest that separates the village from the fire is very continuous and there are very few natural fire breaks. Such breaks would help minimize the chances of fire progressing towards Grand Lake.
There is no imminent threat to any communities or structures and Rocky Mountain National Park remains open. However, to ensure public and fire-fighter safety, there are currently seven trails that are temporarily closed in the area – the Onahu Trail, the Green Mountain Trail, the lower Tonahutu Trail, the Tonahutu Spur Trail, the Grand Lake Lodge Spur Trail, the Timber Lake Trail and the trail which branches toward Mount Ida from Milner Pass.
All major roads and facilities in Rocky Mountain National Park are open as are the neighboring communities of Grand Lake and Estes Park.
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334