At approximately 7 AM on Tuesday, a wildfire was reported near Little Valley Road and Fish Creek, located approximately 2.7 miles from downtown Estes Park. Extreme winds have whipped the fire from 20 acres to approximately 75 acres by 9:45 AM.
Estes Park parents were alerted to a local wildfire by an urgent message from the Estes Park School District informing them that all school was canceled today due to a power outage on the school campus caused by a fire in the little valley area. While buses were already running, the school district was working to ensure students were safe and that parents and students would be reunited as quickly as possible.
The cause of the Kruger Rock Fire is unclear. Still, there is speculation that high winds may have knocked down a power line, causing the fire. The Estes Valley Fire Protection District (EVFPD) was first to the fire and resources heading to the scene from nearby communities. The Larimer County Sheriffs Office (LCSO) has taken over command of the incident.
As of 11:41 AM, the LCSO and fire officials have ordered an upgrade to mandatory evacuations for the area of Meadowdale and south to the Boulder County line (including Big Elk Meadows and Pinewood Springs West of Hwy 36) for residents and business occupants due to immediate and imminent danger.
"Evacuate the area immediately and as quickly as possible do not delay leaving to gather belongings or make efforts to protect your home or business. Evacuating immediately not only supports your safety but also allows emergency crews better access to the area."
The LCSO earlier upgraded evacuation orders to mandatory for the area of Hermit Park.
An evacuation site has opened at the Estes Park Event Center, located at 1125 Rooftop Way. The Red Cross and Salvation Army are onsite.
The Colorado State Patrol has closed Highway 36 in both directions between Mall Rd. in Estes Park and Apple Valley Rd. West of Lyons due to emergency operations for the fire.
Small animals can be evacuated to the Larimer County Humane Society located at 3501 E 71st St. in Loveland. Large animals can go to The Ranch, located at 5280 Arena Circle in Loveland.
Highway 34 is open again after being temporarily closed in both directions due to a motor vehicle accident at mile marker 69.
According to weather analyst Greg Berman of Weather Talk, we could experience a bora event (which are not that rare in CO..) Which is a strong, cold, high pressure system moving from the west across the Rockies that can generate a damaging wind down the leeward slopes of the mountains, known as a Bora. These episodes feature widespread high winds from the west or northwest into the adjacent plains at speeds which can exceed 100 mph.
Berman also notes that strong Low Pressure is not far from the front range. The closer the High gets to the Low this causes a very strong pressure gradient. These strong winds will not be helpful to the fire. So we don't want the bora at all.
According to an email from Berman:
“the latest HRRR model run which comes out every hour: Winds should start to switch direction around or just before 5pm, but they could still stay rather strong at times through 6am. Before the front, up to 70mph wind gusts are still possible. Please note these are gusts not sustained winds. Sometimes folks get confused by that. My concern is will Estes Park get this change in wind direction. In the higher elevations, west of Estes, the winds stay westerly, and that could be a problem. It's impossible to know what is going to happen until the frontal passage which looks to be late afternoon/early evening. This model is not clear if the town's elevation will turn easterly. This is an elevation issue. East of Estes winds will definitely turn to the east. This is not a very strong front, and sometimes the higher elevations are not just last to change wind direction, but sometimes it never happens. My take on this is temps will start to fall in the next few hours, the winds will switch to east/northeast, and this hopefully will help the fire scenario.“
We will update this information as more becomes available.
* All photos were provided courtesy of Brett Rios Photography you can find his work on Facebook.
UPDATED AT 2:32 PM to reflect an error in weather descriptions.