(Originally published at 3:02 p.m. MT, June 11, 2013; updated at 8:47 a.m. MT, June 12)
Several new fires are being pushed by very strong winds and are influenced by record high temperatures and very low humidities, on a day when the south two-thirds of the state is under a Red Flag Warning and Denver set a record for the highest temperature ever recorded for the date, 99 degrees, which is 4 degrees higher than the previous record.
Royal Gorge Fire
We have transitioned new information about the Royal Gorge Fire, including maps, to its own location on Wildfire Today, where all additional developments about the fire can be found.
KKTV reports that at least three structures have burned as well as 3,800 acres.
The Canon City Daily Record reports a prison, the Colorado Territorial Facility, is evacuating 881 inmates to the vacant CSP II facility because of the Royal Gorge Fire.
Denver’s ABC7 has created a map showing the evacuation zone for the Royal Gorge Fire.
The two Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) at Grand Junction have been requested for the fire, but they can’t take off in the 30+ mph winds there. Strong winds at the fire would make the retardant ineffective and the conditions could possibly be unsafe for the pilots.
Below is a map showing heat detected by a satellite on the Royal Gorge Fire at 2:40 p.m. MT, June 11, 2013. These satellite maps can have the locations off by a mile or two, but this data shows that the fire is approximately two to three miles long.
Black Forest Fire
We have transitioned new information about the Black Forest Fire, including maps, to its own location on Wildfire Today, where all additional developments about the fire can be found.
A large fire is burning in the Black Forest area of Colorado Springs (map). 9NEWS (KUSA) in Denver is occasionally streaming live video of the fire. And this CBS site sometimes has a live video stream of the fires.
Multiple homes were seen burning on the coverage from 9NEWS.
In a briefing at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Terry Maketa, the El Paso County Sheriff, said the fire has burned 7,500 to 8,000 acres, a Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered, and 40 to 60 “primary structures” have burned. About 5,400 residents have been evacuated from 1,900 homes.
The Sheriff said the fire crossed Meridan Road and moved into what had been designated a pre-evacuation area. (See the evacuation map here.)
He said the Governor has activated the two Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) air tankers at Peterson Air Force Base and they should be available by mid-morning Wednesday. Those aircraft are operated by the 302nd Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve, rather than the state national guard like the other three units that have MAFFS, so it would be unusual for a governor to have the authority to activate them without going through the National Interagency Fire Center.
The Sheriff also reported the following resources were working on the fire Tuesday: 16 water tenders, 36 engines, 4 dozers,and 1 Type 1 air tanker.
Military helicopters, two UH60s and two CH47s, from Ft. Carson and the Colorado Army National Guard have mobilized and are joining the fire fight.
Ordering the Type 1 Incident Management Team is a significant change from a year ago, when the City of Colorado Springs was very hesitant to accept any help or support from the Type 1 IMTeam that was suppressing the Waldo Canyon Fire which blackened 18,247 acres and destroyed 346 homes in the city.
Big Meadow Fire
We have transitioned new information about the Big Meadow fire, including maps, to its own location on Wildfire Today, where all additional developments about the fire can be found.
The Big Meadow Fire is burning on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park and on Monday and early Tuesday gusty winds prevented the deployment of smokejumpers. Tuesday morning the lightning-caused fire had only burned two to three acres, but the Park reported at about 2:50 p.m. Tuesday that there was increased smoke coming from the fire:
Significant smoke, rapidly increasing in size is being seen from the Big Meadows Fire.
The Park’s Tuesday morning press release said the National Park Service reluctantly decided to suppress the fire, rather than let it burn, citing extended drought conditions and reduced interagency resources, which influenced the decision, they said. Then a few hours later, it was off to the races — and it could be a long race unless there is a major change in the weather very soon.
Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team A has been dispatched to the Big Meadow Fire. Their inbriefing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The photo below of the Big Meadow Fire was taken Monday, June 10.
This next photo of the Big Meadow Fire was taken Tuesday afternoon by Park Ranger “JP” from Trail Ridge Road. The fire obviously grew larger than two to three acres.
And one more photo of the Big Meadow Fire: