Some Fern Lake Fire evacuees return home, told to remain on standby

Conditions too windy for tankers to fly

ESTES PARK, Colo. - Some people living near the wildfire burning in Rocky Mountain National Park returned home Wednesday morning but they still have to remain on high alert.

People living in the Highway 66 area were allowed back home for the first time since Saturday. While they are still on standby to evacuate if conditions change, many families say it will be good to be back home.

"We knew if the fire didn't hold at Bear Lake Road, that's only a mile from our house to the west, the way the wind blows, so we were concerned that we would never have a home again," said Carolyn Wills.

The remaining evacuees are scheduled to be allowed back home on Friday.

The Fern Lake has been burning for two months and has burned nearly six square miles. It's 40 percent contained.

So far, it has burned only one structure, a cabin.

Tankers are standing by at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport to fight the fire. Normally, the tanker base would be closed this time of year.

To underscore what a terriblly long fire season it's been, one of the pilots told 7NEWS that in nearly three decades, he's never fought a wildfire in December.
 
Two tankers and a heli-tanker are currently stationed at the airport to help with the firefight. Two helicopters tried flying to the Fern Lake Fire Wednesday morning, but turned around because 40 mph winds made it too dangerous to drop anything.

Falling trees also stopped some hand crews operations on Tuesday.

Conditions are expected to improve as a cold front moves through Wednesday night, dropping a couple of inches of snow in the Estes Park area, according to 24/7 Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson.