Wildfire near Twin Lakes likely sparked by abandoned campfire, investigators say

A lake with a horizon of trees and wildfire smoke.
U.S. Forest Service/Provided
The Interlaken fire burning on the south side of Twin Lakes Reservoir. Investigators said the wildfire was reported on June 11, 2024, and was likely sparked by a campfire days before the wildfire ignited.

Updated on Tuesday, June 25, 2024 at 1:28 p.m.

Fire officials said the Interlaken fire is fully contained as of Monday, June 25, 2024, two weeks after it first sparked. The fire burned about one square mile of U.S. Forest Service land during that time.

Containment of a wildfire does not mean all the flames have been extinguished. The term means firefighters have established a perimeter to prevent the fire from spreading further.

Some recreational and camping closures near the burn site, specifically along the eastern side of Twin Lakes, remained in place Tuesday. No injuries or damaged homes have been reported.

A wildfire that ignited Tuesday near the Twin Lakes Recreation Area was likely sparked by an abandoned campfire, investigators said.

The Interlaken fire grew to about three-quarters of a square mile by late Wednesday. The fire is burning on the south side of Twin Lakes Reservoir near the Twin Lakes Historic District, 20 miles south of Leadville, U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Shawna Graves said in a statement.

No homes or buildings have been damaged, but a few communities were ordered to evacuate and authorities warned other residents in the area to be ready to leave if the wildfire grows or conditions worsen.

In a briefing with fire crews, an investigator with the U.S. Forest Service said the wildfire was likely sparked by an improperly extinguished campfire found near the Interlaken Trail, according to an update from the Park County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators said they do not have any leads on who abandoned the campfire, which appeared to have been deserted several days before the wildfire was reported.

A picture of a campfire ring in a forest investigators say sparked a wildfire.
U.S. Forest Service/Provided
U.S. Forest Service investigators believe an ember from a poorly extinguished campfire in this fire ring, located near the Interlaken Trail, sparked a wildfire reported on June 11, 2024, near the Twin Lakes Recreation Area.

The wildfire is burning in forested areas filled with dead trees and produced heavy smoke Wednesday, which prompted an alert from state health authorities. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment warned people in southern Lake County and northern Chaffee County — especially the very young, elderly or people with medical issues — to stay indoors if smoke accumulates.

About 135 firefighters from multiple agencies are working to control the fire, which was uncontained late Wednesday, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Crews worked throughout the day to control the blaze on the ground and used helicopters and other aircraft to drop water and retardant on the fire.

Poorly extinguished campfires are one of the most common ways wildland fires are started in Colorado, a CPR News analysis of data from the National Interagency Fire Center showed. While investigators are unable to determine the cause of most wildfires, campfires have likely sparked about 300 wildfires across the state from 2009 to 2023.