After some pondering I decided we'd go to Lily Lake and the Jurassic Park climbing area for some rope time. Lily Lake is just south of Estes Park along the Peak-to-Peak Highway, just northeast of Longs Peak.
As we headed northwest, first from Arvada to Boulder and then beyond, we saw a plume of smoke up north west of Fort Collins. I pointed it out and said it must be the Stuart Hole Fire. Last I'd heard that one had been 200+ acres and mostly contained. I guessed it had flared back up.
Descending into Estes Park after the long slog up the canyon we could see the plume closeup. The kids said it looked like a nuclear explosion, a volcano erupting and an asteroid hit.
High Park Fire from south of Estes Park
We squeezed into a parking spot along the Peak-to-Peak across from Lily Lake and we had an amazing view of the plume dominating the sky to the north. Our hike and climbing foray went well, and a few hours later we returned to the car to the same view of the smoke. If anything it had grown.
June 9, 2012 about 6pm, along the Peak-to-Peak
Back in the plains the haze was thickening. We could see the plume all the way out to I-25 and far south.
Back at the Bikeport we flipped on the news only to discover that what we'd been seeing was a new fire, the High Park, discovered early yesterday morning and through the day had grown to 5,000 acres and had destroyed 10 structures. The news footage was stunning.
By the time we went to bed the reports were of 8,000 acres consumed and this morning the estimate had grown to 12,000 to 14,000 acres (in the same Denver Post article, later corrected to 14,000). The fire is sweeping through stands of beetle-kill, and that factor, combined with high temperatures yesterday, low humidity and high winds has caused this mind-boggling flareup.
I did some research on the 2012 wildfire season and was shocked to discover some really big fires still burning in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and now this huge fire up north.
This is nuts. Unless we get a massively significant amount of rain the situation is only going to get worse.
As of 5pm June 11, 2012 the High Park Fire has burned 37,000 acres, destroyed approximately 100 structures and is still 0% contained.
5:00 pm 6/12/12 - 43,000+ acres, 5% containment
Midday 6/13/12 - 46,600 acres, 10% containment
Late 6/14/12 - 52,000 acres, 15% containment 1,300 personnel
6/15/12 - Still 52,000+ acres, 100+ structures (nearly 50 homes) reported destroyed. The area burning is south of the Poudre River and immediately west of Horsetooth Reservoir. The long term effects of this fire will include heavy sedimentation in the watersheds west of Fort Collins.10pm: 54,000+ acres, 20% containment, 112+ homes destroyed, 1,500 personnel active
6/17/12 - 55,000+ acres, 45% containment, has now exceeded the Fourmile Fire as the most destructive (number of homes destroyed) in Colorado history with 181 homes so far. To date it has cost more than $9 million to fight with over 1,600 personnel fighting the fire.
6/18/12 - Nearly 59,000 acres, 50% contained, 1,700+ personnel, 189 homes destroyed, $12+ million to fight so far.
6/20 - 65,700+ acres, 55% containment, 1,900 personnel, $17+ million
6/21 - 68,200 acres, 55% containment, $19+ million to fight
6/22 - 69,530 acres, 45% containment, $19+ millions, at least two more homes destroyed and 2,000+ personnel still fighting
6/24 - 83,000+ acres, 45% containment (Red Flag Warning for most of the West), 57 more homes destroyed 248 total)
6/27 - 87,284 acres (and holding), 75% containment, 250+ homes destroyed, $33+ million to fight
WALDO CANYON FIRE UPDATE - 15,000+ acres, 5% containment, 32,000 evacuated, I-25 closed at times, 200-300 homes destroyed!!!
Smoke from the Flagstaff Fire (Boulder) from Golden - 6/26