How The East Troublesome Fire Has Damaged Rocky Mountain National Park So Far

October 23, 2020
Damage from the East Troublesome fire burns in Rocky Mountain National Park by Kawuneechee Valley near Coyote Valley trailhead.Damage from the East Troublesome fire burns in Rocky Mountain National Park by Kawuneechee Valley near Coyote Valley trailhead.Courtesy of Rocky Mountain National Park
Damage from the East Troublesome fire burns in Rocky Mountain National Park by Kawuneechee Valley near Coyote Valley trailhead.

As firefighters work to contain the various wildfires burning across the high country, the Rocky Mountain National Park — which is south and east of two of the largest burning right now — has seen some damage.

On Wednesday, the East Troublesome Fire, the second-largest wildfire in recorded state history, moved into the west side of the park, prompting evacuations of park staff and residents of Grand Lake, according to Kyle Patterson, management specialist/public affairs officer for RMNP.

"There appears to be some structure loss on the west side of the park, but initial assessment indicates that it is minimal," Patterson wrote in a statement issued Friday morning. "At this time, we are unable to fully assess those impacts."

On Thursday, park employees saw a hot spot on the east side of the Continental Divide in the park; fire lookouts later confirmed a smoke column out of Spruce Creek, prompting evacuations in Estes Park. Humidity Thursday helped to contain that fire. As of Thursday night, the fire had moved north of the Coyote Valley Trailhead, which runs parallel to Trail Ridge Road in the west side of the park.

RMNP encompasses 415 square miles and is the third-busiest national park in the U.S., attracting nearly 5 million visitors last year.

As winds pick up later Friday, Estes Valley Fire Chief David Wolf said he's particularly concerned the fire could head south, toward the YMCA of the Rockies campus, and straight east, across the Moraine Park toward Estes Park.

"The Fern Lake fire (in 2012) made a three-mile run in 45 minutes across Moraine Park," Wolf said. "So we've seen it with our own eyes how quickly fire can move."

But Wolf said he's hopeful that precipitation in the forecast would help their efforts.

"It would be a very positive for us if that forecast is accurate and we get a lot of moisture," he said.

Wolf said the park has been preparing for a large wildfire "for years."

"We're going to do everything we can to help protect Rocky Mountain National Park and our community," he said.

CPR News reporter Nathaniel Minor contributed to this story.