Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fern Lake Wildfire Update

  Helicopter and tanker assitance for the Fern Lake fire has been grounded because of high winds and poor visibility, according to a Rocky Mountain National Park spokesperson.  Support to fight the fire has increased from 61 firefighters Friday to 200 on Saturday. Two hot shot crews are on their way to the wildfire and numerous local fire engines are headed to the area, officials said.
   The arrival of two Type 1 heavy air tankers in Southern California will be delayed at least one day because of poor visibility in the area, said Kyle Patterson, a spokeswoman for the park.  The fire, caused by an illegal runaway campfire in Rocky Mountain National Park on Oct. 9, has forced evacuation of 583 homes after strong winds pushed the wildfire to jump established fire lines early Saturday morning.
  "The wind last night was very strong and fanned the flames," said John Schulz, spokesman for the Larimer County Sheriff's Department. "It jumped the lines."  One unoccupied, privately owned cabin was destroyed and many others are threatened, Schulz said.  "The fire was spotting a mile ahead of itself, which is an incredibly long distance," said Traci Weaver, spokeswoman for Rocky Mountain National Park. "What happened last night was a rather unexpected wind event."
   Officials working to fight the Fern Lake fire ordered the evacuation of Moraine Park Campground at 1:50 a.m. Saturday, Weaver said. A total of 1,100 home phones and cellular phones were called with warnings. Seven campers were notified in person early Saturday morning, Weaver added.
   The blaze fueled by winds gusting to 75 mph consumed all of Moraine Park overnight, a mostly grassy area of roughly 600 acres, she said. It spread through timber pockets and got into the upper canopy of some trees, but firefighters were able to "knock it down" out of the trees, Weaver said. She said the fire is not spreading as rapidly later Saturday morning after winds died down.  "We are cautiously optimistic," Weaver said. "What we really need now is snow."

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