As the Cameron Peak Fire intensifies, flames became visible from Estes Park near Rocky Mountain National Park as the largest wildfire in Colorado history rages on.
Fort Collins Coloradoan
Rocky Mountain National Park will partially reopen on Friday after closing amid two of the largest wildfires in Colorado history.
The National Park Service tweeted on Thursday that areas affected by the East Troublesome Fire would reopen Friday, while the west side of the park remains closed due to fire impacts and safety assessments.
The park has been closed since Oct. 22.
All evacuations around the park’s gateway town of Estes Park were lifted Monday as firefighters made significant progress containing the Cameron Peak Fire over the weekend.
The Cameron Peak Fire has burned nearly 209,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire in Colorado state history.
The East Troublesome Fire, which started Oct. 14, initially burned west of Rocky Mountain National Park’s boundary. It grew more than 100,000 acres on Oct 21 alone and expanded into the western side of the park, then spotted over the Continental Divide to the east side of the park.
Nearly 29,000 acres have burned in the 265,600-acre national park, including to the western edge of Estes Park as well as in the northern part of the park.
But containment on the Cameron Peak Fire, which caused the evacuations of thousands of people and burned 442 structures — about half of them homes — has jumped to 85%, the fire incident command team announced Monday.
The Thompson Zone of the East Troublesome Fire, which is burning in the park despite more than a foot of snow last week, is showing containment for the first time since it sparked from the main fire on Oct. 22. That 4,889-acre spot fire is now 31% contained but prompted the evacuation of Estes Park.
The East Troublesome Fire, which now is the state’s second-largest fire in state history at 193,774 acres with 37% containment, caused the evacuation of the west gateway town of Grand Lake. Evacuations of that town also have been lifted, but not without the loss of many homes.
Park officials said once the park does open, only some areas will be accessible based upon safety and fire behavior.
Park managers continue to assess fire activity and additional safety hazards, such as falling trees and downed power lines. Park staff is assessing infrastructure in outlying areas.
The park had a record 4.7 million visitors in 2019, making it the third-most visited national park.
The nearly 29,000 acres burned within the park is the most since the park was established 105 years ago. Park officials reported earlier that despite the damage to the landscape, they expected only minor damage to campgrounds and trails.
About 1.5 million acres of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests adjacent to the park also remain closed. That area was closed Oct. 20 due to the fires. About 300,000 acres of the Roosevelt National Forest west of Fort Collins was closed shortly after the Cameron Peak Fire started Aug. 13.
Reporter Miles Blumhardt looks for stories that impact your life. Be it news, outdoors, sports — you name it, he wants to report it. Have a story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MilesBlumhardt. Support his work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
Contributing: Curtis Tate, USA TODAY
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