ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo. - The Fern Lake Fire is not the first fire to burn for weeks in Rocky Mountain National Park, then suddenly increase and force evacuations near Estes Park.
The Ouzel Lake Fire, on the south side of the park, was started by lightning on Aug. 9, 1978. It wasn't until Sept. 15, 1978 when strong winds whipped up the fire and forced evacuations.
The RMNP website explains that when the fire started, park rangers monitored the fire because they wanted to let the fire carry out its "cleansing" role in the forest. The story continues:
For days the fire behaved as expected, spreading slowly and casting only an occasional puff of smoke into the sky. But then on August 23 and again on September 1, gusts of wind caused the fire to intensify and spread rapidly. As public pressure grew park officials decided that the fire could remain wild no longer and assigned firefighter crews to control the blaze. With the help of snow and rain, containment seemed assured by September 11."
However, on September 15 winds exceeding 30 miles per hour swept out of the west, whipped the fire back into life and pushed it eastward toward the park boundary. Residents of nearby Allenspark were alarmed at the rapid progress of the fire. People living in a housing subdivision even closer to the park boundary found themselves directly in the path of the fast-approaching fire. Nearly 350 people prepared to flee or fight for their homes.
At this point, some 500 firefighters were brought it to fight the fire. It took days but they got the fire under control. The damage done by the fire can still be seen by visitors on the trail to Ouzel Lake.
Important note, firefighters have been fighting the Fern Lake Fire since it began. However, the fire is burning in steep, rugged terrain that includes beetle-killed trees which has made the ground attack more difficult and dangerous, officials said.