This afternoon, due to high winds, low humidity and a large amount of beetle killed trees, the Big Meadows Fire grew from 2 to 3 acres this morning, to an estimated 300 to 400 acres throughout the day. A recon flight this afternoon showed the fire moving to the northeast towards Nakai Peak.
This morning an interagency crew consisting of Rocky Mountain National Park and US Forest Service firefighters were flown to the Big Meadows Fire located on the north end of Big Meadows on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The location is roughly 4.5 miles from the Green Mountain Trailhead in a relatively remote section of Rocky Mountain National Park west of the Continental Divide. Around 1:00 p.m. firefighters experienced extremely gusty winds that both deterred deploying smokejumpers, and increased the fire's growth. No structures or communities are threatened.
A Boise Smokejumper Type III Team has taken over management of the fire. A Type II team is on order and is expected to transition Thursday morning. Fire managers have ordered additional air and ground resources including three additional helicopters and five additional Type I crews. The Craig Hotshot Type I crew arrived this afternoon. With unfavorable weather conditions forecasted for tomorrow, the fire is expected to be active again. Additionally, due to the large amount of beetle killed trees, firefighter and visitor safety will continue to be paramount.
I hiked to Big Meadows last fall and was shocked by the amount of dead trees as a result of the mountain pine beetle infestation. At the time I estimated that at least 80% of the trees visible from the meadow were already dead:
This photo was taken from the Gore Range Overlook on Trail Ridge Road this afternoon:
Currently there are five trails temporarily closed in the area - the Onahu Trail, the Green Mountain Trail, the lower Tonahutu Trail, the Tonahutu Spur Trail and the Grand Lake Lodge Spur Trail.
The park has set up a recorded Fire Information Line at (970) 586-1381 which will be updated when new information on the Big Meadows Fire is available.
The weather forecast for tomorrow for the Grand Lake area calls for more warm, dry and windy conditions (10 to 15 MPH). A stray afternoon thunderstorm is possible.