Last updated: September 21, 2023 (Updated several times a week during fire season)
Fire is a serious danger in the mountain west. It is therefore important to stay aware of the changing conditions and restrictions so each of us can help prevent the start of wildfires.
The "moderate" rating means some wildfires may be expected. Expect moderate flame length and rate of spread. Control is usually not difficult and light to moderate mop up can be expected. Although controlled burning can be done without creating a hazard, routine caution should be taken.
The current rating comes from: https://gacc.nifc.gov/rmcc/dis... (Rocky Mountain National Park is included in the East Divide FDRA and the West Divide FDRA. We use the higher of the two ratings.)
Stage 1 Fire Restrictions
Rocky Mountain National Park always has Stage 1 fire restrictions in place, where campfires are prohibited in the park, except within designated campfire rings in picnic areas and front-country campgrounds. Fireworks are always prohibited within the park. Park visitors are urged to use caution and vigilance regarding the use of fire in authorized locations.
About Wildfires in Rocky Mountain National Park
Wildfires are becoming a more common occurrence throughout the western United States. Years of drought combined with a warming climate has led to more fires, larger fires, and more intense fires than have been experienced in recorded history. In 2020 Estes Park faced the two largest wildfires in Colorado history. The Cameron Peak Fire which began outside the northern edge of Rocky grew to be 326 square miles (844 km2) which is nearly 80% the size of Rocky Mountain National Park. A large part of the northern border area of the national park was burned and it even came to the edge of the town of Glen Haven just east of Estes Park. That same summer the East Troublesome Fire which started out near Kremmling, Colorado, far to the west of Rocky Mountain National Park, burned all the way to the very eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park destroying hundreds of homes and causing the evacuation of Estes Park. If a snowstorm hadn't arrived when it did, the local fire chiefs believe that most of the town would have been lost. The total size of this fire was over 300 square miles (777 km2) with a staggering 200 square miles (518 km2) burning within two days due to high winds and dry forests. It even jumped over a mile of tundra, crossing the Continental Divide near Spruce Canyon in the park.
These days, a simple campfire, cigarette, or spark from other sources could result in massive and nearly unstoppable wildfires. While so many of us have wonderful memories of sitting around a campfire, this is becoming something that should only be done very vigilantly and only under the very best conditions, when allowed. We need to take every precaution possible to ensure that we protect our remaining forests and the surrounding communities.
You can learn more about the current fire conditions and restrictions in Rocky Mountain National park at this link. If you are staying in the Estes Valley, it is important to know the restrictions in place as they may be different from the national park. You can find current Estes Valley fire restrictions here.
If you would like to receive text alerts for wildfires while visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park area send a text with the word EPAlerts to 888777 and you will receive updates for a two-week period.
A Brief Description of the National Fire Danger Rating System
There are five different levels used across the United States to signify the potential for wildfire. How communities and areas like national parks respond to each of these levels may vary, as they know their resources and the potential challenges, so be sure to check the latest restrictions which are listed above. The five levels of fire danger are described as follows.
Low (Green)— Fire starts are unlikely. Weather and fuel conditions will lead to slow fire spread, low intensity, and relatively easy control with light mop up. Controlled burns can usually be executed with reasonable safety.
Moderate (Blue)— Some wildfires may be expected. Expect moderate flame length and rate of spread. Control is usually not difficult and light to moderate mop up can be expected. Although controlled burning can be done without creating a hazard, routine caution should be taken.
High (Yellow)— Wildfires are likely. Fires in heavy, continuous fuel, such as mature grassland, weed fields, and forest litter, will be difficult to control under windy conditions. Control through direct attack may be difficult but possible, and mop up will be required. Outdoor burning should be restricted to early morning and late evening hours.
Very High (Orange)— Fires start easily from all causes and may spread faster than suppression resources can travel. Flame lengths will be long with high intensity, making control very difficult. Both suppression and mop up will require an extended and very thorough effort. Outdoor burning is not recommended.
Extreme (Red)— Fires will start and spread rapidly. Every fire start has the potential to become large. Expect extreme, erratic fire behavior. NO OUTDOOR BURNING SHOULD TAKE PLACE IN AREAS WITH EXTREME FIRE DANGER.
You can find more about the wildfire rating system and understanding fire danger at this link.