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Contact: Kyle Patterson, 970-586-1363
Yesterday, Wednesday, September 1, at 6:00 p.m. park staff received a smoke report coming from the Cow Creek Fire area. Park fire officials determined the smoke was coming from the remote western flank of the Cow Creek Fire at the bottom of the West Creek drainage in an area of heavy fuels. This location places tundra to the north and west of the smoke and the previously burned area to the east. There were sporadic, high winds and low relative humidity in the park yesterday.
A park fire crew is hiking to the area and is expected to have a better assessment later today. The weather forecast is for high rotational winds this afternoon. With these winds more smoke is expected. The fire crew will also try and determine if there are any other hot spots in the Cow Creek Fire area. Public and firefighter safety is always the top priority.
In early July, firefighters achieved containment of the northeast, east, and southern portions of the Cow Creek Fire in the remote West Creek area in Rocky Mountain National Park. The immediate threat to the area on the park's eastern boundary was mitigated; however, there was potential for the fire to spread to the west. It was expected that the fire would likely burn through the remainder of the fire season with the potential of smoke being visible until a significant weather event, such as snow this fall, puts the fire out.
On July 4, the three trails that were closed due to fire operations reopened. However, off trail travel on national park lands south of the North Fork of the Big Thompson River, west of the North Boundary Trail, north of Cow Creek, and east of Mummy Mountain and Mount Dunraven continue to be prohibited due to the active fire in the area.
Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem in the park. Fires have not burned in this rugged, remote area of the park for hundreds of years. "Many plants and animals are dependent on fire for their survival. Periodic fire can improve reproduction of plants and improve wildlife habitat. As we learn more about the historic role of wildland fire on public lands, we are also mindful of our duty in the protection of the public and communities," said Vaughn Baker, park superintendent. "Although this fire is miles away from any homes, it serves as a good reminder to all of us who live nearby, to take the necessary precautions to protect our homes." More information on preparing for a wildfire can be found at www.firewise.org.