The Fern Lake Fire, which has gone through varying stages of smoldering and flaring up since it was first spotted back in October, has cost the National Park Service more than $3 million to combat and the bill continues to rise.
The fire, which has destroyed one cabin inside the park and led to the evacuation of hundreds living in outlying areas of Estes Park, Colorado, is roughly 3,500 acres (latest revision) in size, with 40 percent of the fire contained.
More than 500 personnel are battling the fire, which has settled down a bit since winds gusting to 75 mph during the weekend pushed it into Moraine Park and towards Estes Park on the east side of the national park.
Fire bosses said crews on Wednesday would be focused on the Steep Mountain area, specifically the fireline from the Mill Creek Trail to the west of Steep Mountain, then east to the junction of the Moraine Park Trail and the Cub Lake Trail.
"Numerous spots are still causing concerns. Multiple handcrews will be working along this fireline, extinguishing spots which could become issues during continued wind events," they said. "Crews are also preparing structures in the area. Feller bunchers are being used to reduce fuel loading along the Bear Lake Road.
"The north perimeter of the fire is in mop-up status, with crews and engines working into the fire area at various distances which minimize the potential spread or spotting. Any hazards which interfere with access, or pose an immediate hazard to firefighters or the public are being mitigated."
Residents who had to evacuate their homes last weekend in the Highway 66 area from Highway 36 up to and including Aspen Brook Drive were allowed to return home Wednesday morning. However, the area was to remain in "pre-evacuation notice," meaning the residents could be asked to leave their homes again depending on fire activity.
Officials also announced tentative plans to allow the remaining evacuees in the Highway 66 corridor to return home on Friday morning.
Highway 36 to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park opened at 9 a.m., Wednesday. Beaver Meadows Visitor Center opened to the public at 9 a.m., although the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park via Beaver Meadows Entrance and Fall River Entrance remain closed.
The Fall River Visitor Center was on its normal winter hours and was closed Wednesday. For further information on Rocky Mountain National Park, you can call the park's Information Office at 970-586-1206.