The Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests remain closed due to fire concerns despite significant snowfall at the beginning of the week that halted growth of the East Troublesome fire and its movement in Rocky Mountain National Park, which also remains closed.
The forests were closed on Oct. 20 because of dry conditions and three wildfires: East Troublesome, Cameron Peak and Williams Fork. They encompass all national forest land along the Front Range from Jefferson County to the Wyoming border.
“I understand the tremendous impact this closure has on people wanting to hunt and recreate on the national forest,” Forest supervisor Monte Williams said in a news release on Thursday. “We are taking a careful, measured and deliberative approach, factoring in the forecasts, fuel conditions, and availability of firefighting personnel.”
On Friday, Rocky Mountain National Park told visitors via Facebook that it also remains closed, and “It is unknown when the park will reopen,” officials posted. “Once it does reopen, only some areas of the park will be accessible based upon safety and fire behavior.”
Falling trees and downed power lines are still safety hazards inside the park, officials said.
“Park staff are plowing roads and parking lots and assessing infrastructure in outlying areas. We ask for your patience as we put visitor and staff safety first,” the post read. “Almost 29,000 acres have burned inside Rocky Mountain National Park on the East Troublesome Fire and the Cameron Peak Fire. This is the most acres burned within the park since its establishment 105 years ago.”
According to the release from Arapaho and Roosevelt national forests, the moisture content in the six to 18 inches of snow that fell earlier this week was the equivalent of an inch of rain or less.
“While that will help the finer fuels like grasses and sage recover, it won’t help the larger fuels like trees and downed logs, which are the driest fire managers have seen in 20 years,” the release said.
The decision to keep the forests closed was supported by the counties involved and their sheriffs, along with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“Both the Cameron Peak and Williams Fork fires have already been snowed on multiple times, and they both made big runs after that,” Williams said. “We are seeing conditions worse than 2012 when the Fern Lake Fire made a run through Rocky Mountain National Park toward Estes Park from under the snow in December. Fire season is not over in northern Colorado.”
Weather forecasts for the next week to two weeks are warning of warmer than normal temperatures without significant precipitation.