Very few fires have burned in Rocky Mountain National Park in the last 40 years

There is plenty of fuel available for the East Troublesome Fire

October 24, 2020   |   2:56 p.m. MDT

Map of the Fire history of Rocky Mountain National Park
Map of the wildfire history of Rocky Mountain National Park from 1980 through October 23, 2020. The east and west boundaries of the park are close to highways 34 and 7.

Very few large wildland fires have burned in Rocky Mountain National Park in the last 40 years. Official records show only one that has exceeded 1,000 acres — the Fern Lake Fire that covered 3,330 acres in 2012. There were a couple of fires in the late 1970s west of Allenspark that each burned less than 1,000 acres.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the East Troublesome Fire, including the most recent, click here.

There is an unofficial report that the East Troublesome Fire burned through the footprint of the Fern Lake Fire before noon today, October 24. The 643-acre Big Meadows Fire of 2013 has also been burned over.

Hazardous Fuel Treatments near Estes Park
Hazardous Fuel Treatments near Estes Park, current October 24, 2020. It is not clear if the projects were prescribed fire, mechanical vegetation treatment, or both.

The bottom line is, most of the vegetation in the park has not been visited by fire in recorded history. This means a fire burning in a fire-starved forest under the current drought conditions and a strong wind, would be virtually impossible to stop until those conditions change. And a big change is due after sunset today with rain followed by snow which will continue through Monday.

At 10 a.m. Saturday the East Troublesome Fire was mapped at 191,000 acres and was spreading to the east.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “Very few fires have burned in Rocky Mountain National Park in the last 40 years”

  1. All sites have a carrying capacity. I would like specifics on the fuel loading, distribution, and packing ratios.

    Please provide more information on how you reached the conclusion that the area is “fire-starved.”

  2. So the fuel load has been building for 40 years. Without forest management, big fires are inevitable.

    1. The NPS got “burned” by the escaped Ouzle Fire in in Rocky Mtn National Park in 1978. It must have set them back a little on getting prescribed fires completed, and then the beetle killed timber made prescribed fires even harder to get completed.

      Snow eventually stopped The Ouzle Fire. They gave the hotshots 2 days off and then a copule more shifts and we were done.

  3. Thank you Bill for all the awesome summaries and analysis regarding the EastTroublesome fire. It’s greatly appreciated!


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