Contact: Kyle Patterson, 970-586-1363
Update: Sunday afternoon September 19
The Onahu (on-a-who) Fire that started on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday, forcing the closure of Trail Ridge Road, should be fully contained by late today according to fire managers on scene. Meanwhile, park managers have implemented additional fire restrictions for the park.
Trail Ridge Road opened to one-lane traffic at the site of the fire just before noon today allowing cross-park traffic to flow once again during a beautiful fall weekend. Fire fighting efforts, heavy smoke, and standing dead trees that threatened to fall across the road blocked traffic starting around 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Crews responded from throughout the region and two Hot Shot crews arrived overnight to stop the fires spread and contain the fire at 40 acres. Ninety- percent of the fire burned in grass and shrubs. A water-dropping helicopter greatly aided suppression efforts on Saturday.
Crews began mopping up the fire, patrolling for spot fires outside the fire perimeter, and laying a hose line around the fire starting early today. The fire smoldered all day while fire fighters extinguished everything within 25 feet of the fire line. The fire did not threaten to advance. Crews will return tomorrow to continue to mop-up the fire, patrol the area, and ensure that the fire remains contained.
Rocky Mountain National Park always has fire restrictions in place. Due to high fire danger, additional restrictions are now in effect. Fires will only be allowed in designated fire grates. Only petroleum-fueled stoves and grills will be permitted in all designated backcountry campsites. Smoking is prohibited, except within enclosed vehicles, parking lots, or developed areas, such as campgrounds and picnic areas that are cleared of all flammable materials for at least three feet in diameter. Visitors are reminded to properly extinguish all lighted smoking materials. Fireworks are always prohibited within the park. These restrictions are in effect until further notice.
This will be the last update unless there is a significant change in events.
Update: Sunday morning September 19
The Onahu Fire did not spread significantly overnight and remains around 40 acres. It has burned on both sides of Trail Ridge Road 3.5 miles north of the Kawuneeche Visitor Center in the southeast corner of the park. Ground crews are making significant progress on fire line construction or cold trailing the edge of the fire. It has burned some timber, but mostly grass. Snags threaten to fall on Trail Ridage Road and that is delaying the reopening of the road. Crews hope to clear those trees this morning.
Trail Ridge Road remains closed from Milner Pass to Grand Lake Entrance Station. Fall River Road is open. The park is trying to reopen Trail Ridge Road mid-day today. Otherwise, all park facilities and campgrounds remain open. The only trail officially closed is the Onahu Creek Trail, near the start of the fire.
The Cow Creek Fire in the northwest portion of the park remains active and additional burn-out operations will take place today to strengthen the fire line. Considerable smoke may be visible from that fire this afternoon.
Visitors should consider calling 980-586-1222 for Trail Ridge Road updates (recorded message) or the park Information Office -- which will be staffed until 4:30 today -- at 970-586-1206. Information will be updated as soon as any significant change occurs or the road reopens.
New Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park
Just after 4 p.m. today, a two acre grass fire was reported in Rocky Mountain National Park along Trail Ridge Road on the west side of the park, north of Grand Lake. The Onahu Fire was first spotted near the Onahu Trailhead located 3.5 miles north of the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, which is located just inside the park boundary. The cause is unknown.
Trail Ridge Road is closed at the Grand Lake Entrance Station on the west side of the park and at Miler Pass where the Continental Divide crosses Trail Ridge Road. Old Fall River Road remains open. Alpine and Kawuneeche visitor centers are expected to be open as usual on Sunday.
The fire spread into nearby trees, on both sides of the road, and is estimated at 40 acres. There are no structures, campgrounds or visitors threatened by the fire. Backcountry campers are not in danger. Some torching is reported but a helicopter called to the scene was very effective in slowing the spread. Ground and engine crews were on scene to take full advantage of the slowing advance as the fire laid-down with deceasing winds at sunset. Crews will work this evening but will be pulled off late tonight for safety due to falling snags. They will return at first light.
Tremendous support was provided by fire crews from Granby, Grand Lake, and the Sulphur District of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. Two Hot Shot Crews are expected to arrive tonight and a Type 2 helicopter will be on scene by 9 a.m. on Sunday.
Timber Creek Campground with 98 sites, located about five miles north of the fire along Trail Ridge Road, was open and occupied today, but did not fill. Some campers have chosen to leave the campground to avoid possible smoke. They are being allowed to exit toward Estes Park. The reopening of Trail Ridge Road will be evaluated on Sunday.
The Onahu Fire has no relation to the Cow Creek Fire which is burning in the northeast portion of the park and is still being actively managed for resource benefits. Smoke is still visible from various vantage points along the Front Range.
For information regarding Rocky Mountain National Park call 970-586-1206 during business hours or visit our website at nps.gov/romo.
Last updated: December 1, 2015