Ground And Air Operations Wrap Up On The Cow Creek Fire In RMNP
Last week, crew members hiked out of the Cow Creek Fire area in the West Creek drainage of Rocky Mountain National Park. The fire is secure and any smoke that remains is from that area. Park staff are not planning any additional burnout operations so the smoke should be minimal. The helicopter that has been staged for a month at the junction of Dry Gulch Road and Lory Lane was released last Friday. The fire is currently 1200 acres and will likely burn through the remainder of the fire season until a significant weather event, such as snow this fall, puts the fire out.
The Cow Creek Fire began on June 24. While the eastern portion of the fire was contained in early July, the western flank of the Cow Creek Fire continued to be active in the West Creek area. Fire managers are managing the fire to allow fire to play an active role in the ecosystem. Fires have not burned in this rugged, densely-wooded area for 370 years.
By allowing a natural fire to burn in this remote area, it lessens future fire risk by creating a barrier close to local communities. By allowing fire to return to the ecosystem, the overall health of the forest will be improved. Dead, downed logs and debris were consumed, allowing nutrients to be recycled back into the soil. Thick stands of trees burned, opening the area to sunlight and improving wildlife habitat.
Four separate helicopters were assigned to the fire. A Salmon helicopter 402 was most recently stationed on the fire, and was in the area the longest. Its main functions were reconnaissance, resupply work, and some bucket work. The other helicopters used earlier in the summer were from Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Gallatin National Forest.
According to park superintendent Vaughn Baker, “We have been fortunate to have great cooperators involved in the Cow Creek Fire including our colleagues from the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Nature Conservancy, and National Park Service staff from Zion, Bandelier, Lassen, the National Interagency Fire Center, as well as the Alpine Interagency Hotshot Crew based here at Rocky Mountain National Park. Those relationships have been critical for our park’s fire crew in managing a fire that has been active for almost four months. Through the duration of the fire, there have been many training opportunities for staff from Rocky Mountain National Park as well as other agencies. This experience will benefit all of us in the future.”
The park fire crew will continue to monitor the fire from a distance by using the existing lookout and a live video camera. Off-trail travel on national park lands south of the North Fork of the Big Thompson River, west of the North Boundary Trail, north of Cow Creek, and east of Mummy Mountain and Mount Dunraven continue to be prohibited due to the active fire in the area.
The fire activity this summer is a good reminder to take the necessary precautions to protect our homes. More information on preparing for a wildfire can be found at www.firewise.org.