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First look reveals damage in Rocky Mountain National Park as Colorado wildfires rages on

By Breanna Sneeringer, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) on

Published in News & Features

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Rocky Mountain National Park remains closed due to the raging East Troublesome Fire, currently reported at 170,163 acres. The blaze has caused widespread damage in some portions of the park.

Flames from the East Troublesome Fire crossed into the west side of the park earlier this week, climbing up and over the Continental Divide to produce a spot fire on Mount Wuh – a 10,761-foot peak on the eastern side of the park. This development on the eastern side of the divide prompted the rapid evacuation of thousands in Estes Park.

The portion of the blaze burning in Rocky Mountain National Park remains uncontained, with strong winds resulting in "extreme fire behavior" and potential spread in the east, north, and south. While the flames that were approaching the Estes Park area were calmed by a cold weather front, the possibility of growth in that direction remains, according to the Incident Commander Noel Livingston.

In the latest update, park officials have confirmed some structure loss on the west side of the park. While crews were unable to fully assess those impacts, initial assessments indicate minimal damage.

A heat signature analysis from the National Weather Service picked up activity in the Spruce Creek drainage on Thursday morning, which is found on the eastern side of the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. Fire lookouts positioned near the Ute Trail along Trail Ridge Road were also able to confirm a smoke column out of Spruce Creek on Thursday.

Park officials said increased humidity levels on Thursday greatly assisted in stopping the fire growth on the eastern side of the park and it appears this portion of the blaze has remained in the same general location. It is in a similar area to that of the 2012 Fern Lake Fire.

 

Numerous trees were reported down on the west side of Trail Ridge Road, just north of the Green Mountain Trailhead. This blocked that route as a means of evacuation on Wednesday evening.

Weather conditions west of the Continental Divide have been different than those on the eastern side of the park. On the western side, low humidity and high winds continue to push the fire along. As of Thursday evening, the fire pushed north of the Coyote Valley Trailhead.

From a management standpoint, the East Troublesome Fire has now been divided into two zones. The portion of the fire that crossed over the Continental Divide to the east will now be referred to as the "Thompson Zone" and will be managed by Incident Commander Dan Dallas, who is also managing the fight against the Cameron Peak Fire. The portion of the fire west of the Continental Divide will be referred to as the "Grand Zone" and will continue to be managed by Incident Commander Noel Livingston.

A number of evacuation orders remain in place for both the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome wildfires.

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