A half-foot of snow and colder temperatures have knocked down the Fern Lake Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park, though it is expected to continue to smolder for some time yet, according to fire officials.
"Cold temperatures, with heavy snow later in the day (Saturday), forced firefighters from the fireline because of safety concerns," read a report from the park. "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."
The Fern Lake Fire started back on October 9 of unknown causes. The unseasonably mild fall weather, and strong winds that gusted to 70 miles per hour, blew it up last weekend and led to the evacuation of outlying areas of Estes Park, Colorado. All evacuation notices were lifted Friday.
The fire, which covers almost 3,500 acres, has cost the Park Service $5.8 million to battle. Just one structure, a cabin inside the park, was lost to the flames.
Firefighter and public safety remain the top priority while fighting the Fern Lake Fire. Smoke and potentially open flames will be visible for an extended period. This smoke comes from well within the burned area and poses no threat of escape from containment lines, according to park officials.
On Sunday, if weather allowed, fire bosses were going to try to hike to the southwest flank from Fern Lake Trailhead Road to evaluate opportunities for control lines. If wind and snow create unsafe working conditions, firefighters will again leave the fire area and stage in Estes Park, available for a three-minute response, the park release said. Additional snow accumulations ranging from 1 to 2 inches were expected.
A community meeting will be held at the Estes Park Town Hall on Monday at 5 p.m. Park officials and fire managers planned to provide information on current fire conditions and what residents and visitors could expect to see in the fire area in the coming months.
Rocky Mountain National Park officials have 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. Weather permitting; the road will be 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.