Big Meadows Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park

Big Meadow Fire 6-11-2013 NPS photo

(UPDATE at 10:15 a.m. PT, June 16, 2013)

Big Meadow Fire
Firefighters conducted a burnout adjacent to an avalanche chute Friday, June 14, on the Big Meadows Fire. NPS photo

The Big Meadows Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park has grown to either 496 or 603 acres; both numbers are listed on the fire’s main InciWeb page. Some of the acreage is a result of burn outs conducted by firefighters to take advantage of natural barriers such as an avalanche chute. The Incident Commander lists the fire at  60 percent contained. Uploaded maps can be found on InciWeb.

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(UPDATE at 9:40 a.m. MT, June 14, 2013)

Fire activity Thursday was largely limited to an area on the eastern flank of the fire on south facing slopes. Hand crews constructed and strengthened fire lines along the northwest flank of the fire. Crews working along Tonahutu Creek continued efforts to install hose lays to strengthen containment along the southern flank of the fire.

Today firefighting resources will include an initial attack module of seven fire-fighters, two 20-person Type 1 hotshot crews, two 20-person Type 2 hand crews, and five fire engines.

After an infrared mapping flight, the size of the fire was determined to be 333 acres, a reduction due to more accurate information. The fire is listed at 30 percent containment.

Big Meadow Fire June 11, 2013
Big Meadows Fire June 11, 2013

(UPDATE at 6 p.m. MT, June 13, 2013)

Map of Big Meadow Fire
Map of Big Meadows Fire, 3:28 a.m. MT, 6-13-2013

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(UPDATE at 8:46 a.m. MT, June 13, 2013)

A shortage of wildland firefighters is impacting the suppression of the Big Meadows fire. Fire managers said there are not enough Type 1 hand crews available for them to obtain the resources they need. The 19 percent reduction in the number of federal wildland firefighters over the last two years may have contributed to this situation that makes it more difficult to put out fires.

Below is an excerpt from an update issued by fire managers:

There are 107 firefighters currently on the Big Meadows Fire plus the Type 2 team who will be taking over command of the fire from the Boise Smokejumper Type 3 team tomorrow. Air resources include one Type 1 helicopter, one Type 2 helicopter and two Type 3 helicopters. Many firefighters will be camping out near the fire tonight to get an early morning start to continue with fire suppression tactics.

A challenge continues to be filling additional Type 1 crews. Due to other fires in Colorado, as well as in other states that are impacting communities and homes, resources are being spread across the nation.

The fire managers are calling the fire 600 acres with zero containment.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning until 9 p.m. today for 10-20 mph winds gusting up to 30 mph, relative humidity as low as 14 percent, and thunderstorms with little if any rain, possibly producing more fires.

The Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team A was scheduled to assume command of the fire at 6 a.m. today. Their Incident Command Post is the Granby High School.

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(UPDATE at 6:12 p.m. MT, June 12, 2013)

The Rocky Mountain Geographic Area reports the Big Meadow Fire has now burned 600 acres. It is making upslope runs and is spotting out ahead of the main fire.

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(UPDATE at 2:52 p.m. MT, June 12, 2013)

Map of Big Meadow Fire, 1:43 p.m. MT,  6-12-2013
Map of Big Meadows Fire, 1:43 p.m. MT, 6-12-2013 (click to enlarge)

The above map contains new data on the location of the Big Meadow Fire. It shows the approximate location of heat detected by a satellite which was collected at 1:43 p.m. MT today. The locations of the squares can be as much as a mile in error. The data indicates that the fire moved a bit toward the southeast.

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(UPDATE at 2:14 p.m. MT, June 12, 2013)

As we reported yesterday, the two Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130 air tankers at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs have been activated for this surge in wildfire occurrence and were seen in the air near the Black Forest Fire an hour or two ago. More information about the MAFFS activation and how they were used in Colorado in 2012 is at Fire Aviation.

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(Originally published at 7:52 a.m. MT, June 12, 2013; updated at 12:13 p.m. MT, June 12, 2013)

The Big Meadows Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park started from a lightning strike on Monday. Tuesday it grew from two acres to 400 by the end of the day. Wednesday around noon the Park updated the number of acres burned to 500.

The fire is about 4 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. Tuesday firefighters experienced extremely gusty winds that both deterred deploying smokejumpers and increased the fire’s growth. No structures or communities are threatened.

Map of Big Meadow Fire, 2:40 p.m. MT, June 11, 2013
Map of Big Meadows Fire, 2:40 p.m. MT, June 11, 2013

The map of the Big Meadows Fire above shows the fire to be west of the Continental Divide and 13 miles from Estes Park. The Park posted a zoomed-in topographic map of the fire perimeter Wednesday morning.

The fire is burning in heavy timber and moving to the northeast toward Nakai Peak. No structures or communities are threatened.

A Boise Smokejumper Type 3 Incident Management Team has taken over management of the fire, with Incident Commander Matt Bowers. The Park apparently likes having smokejumpers from Boise manage their fires, as evidenced by this fire and the Fern Lake fire of 2012.

The Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team A has been dispatched and is expected to inbrief Wednesday morning and transition Thursday morning.

Fire managers have ordered additional air and ground resources including three additional helicopters and five additional Type 1 crews. The weather forecast is for more warm, dry and windy conditions Wednesday and the fire is expected to be active.

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.

The map below shows the location of the three large fires burning in Colorado.

Map of Colorado fires
Map of three Colorado fires, 2:40 p.m. MT, June 11, 2013
Big Meadow Fire 6-11-2013 NPS photo
Big Meadows Fire 6-11-2013 NPS photo (click to enlarge)

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

5 thoughts on “Big Meadows Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park”

  1. Thank you Bill for this update — it is very much appreciated. I have a home in Grand Lake so I am keeping track of this closely from Denver. I watched the Park’s press conference a few minutes ago. They were having video/audio issues but I don’t think they mentioned if the fire had grown any overnight past the 400 acres. As you hear updates, I’d be grateful for that information. And thank you again for these updates and for your fire fighting service as well.

    best,
    linda

  2. Thank you, this site is the first one I’ve found that actually gives me information I can use. I’m planning a trip to Colorado and am watching these to see if I should postpone my vacation!

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