GRAND LAKE — The Big Meadows Fire on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park is roughly 550 acres, as of noon today, Wednesday, June 12.
The main goals of fire officials are to keep firefighters safe, complete suppression efforts on the blaze and to set up a fire break at Tonahutu Creek near Grand Lake. Fire officials are working to hold the fire east of Trail Ridge Road (Highway 34), west of the Continental Divide, and north of Tonahutu Creek to prevent the fire from moving southward toward Grand Lake.
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 blaze from progressing toward 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 2 teams.”
Type 1 crews are the most advanced and Type 5 crews attend the least-complex fires.
The forecast in the area of the fire calls for high temperatures, low humidity and high west and southwesterly winds, with a slight chance of a thunderstorm after 2 p.m. These conditions are a slight improvement over Tuesday when the winds gusted to 40 mph, according to Park spokesman Kyle Patterson. Even so, the fire is expected to expand in size today.
The blaze is currently burning mostly dead grasses and some down and dead trees. Bobowski estimates 80 percent of trees on the west side of the park are dead due to the bark beetle infestation.
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 toward Grand Lake.
A Boise Smokejumper Type III crew took over managing the fire Tuesday and will transition to a Type II crew on Thursday. Fire managers have ordered additional air and ground resources including three additional helicopters and five additional Type I crews. Due to other fires in Colorado, as well as in other states, affecting many homes and other structures, resources are being spread across the nation.
Currently, there are 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 our neighboring communities of Grand Lake and Estes Park.