Three Colorado campgrounds recently were evacuated and one of the them slightly damaged as a massive fire that swept through Pike National Forest and the foothills south of Denver.
However, it appeared that Colorado private parks had avoided major fire damage.
“The campground was not destroyed. We didn’t lose any trailers,” said Roxanne Christner, manager of Ami’s Acres, West Glenwood Springs, which sustained a small amount of damage at the edge of the blaze.
In addition to Ami’s Acres, nearby Rock Garden RV Resort in Glenwood Springs and Rainbow Falls Park in Woodland Park were evacuated for two days after being threatened by the fire, according to Dorothy Shadrick, executive director of the Colorado Campground and Lodging Association.
Christner said Ami’s Acres had 25 campers registered as of June 8, the day the fire started. It lost a well house and sustained smoke and debris damage to two houses at the 50-site campground.
“I saw a ball of fire roll across the highway, and it was ’Get out now!’,” Christner said.
She said four or five RVs were pulled out of the park, but that the rest were left in place during the evacuation. Telephone and electrical service at the park also was disrupted.
At the eastern edge of the fire — characterized as the largest in Colorado history — Alpine Lakes Resort in Divide was still on an evacuation notice as of late last week.
“The fire is moving straight south, so we absolutely are hoping that the worst of it is over for us,” said Alpine Lakes Assistant Manager Travis Canner. “We’ve been the lucky one in the whole area.”
Although remaining open, 40-campsite Alpine Lakes was only 10% occupied at a time of year when it typically would be full of campers, Canner said. “We’ve had a lot of cancellations, and due to the situation, we are refunding all the deposits,” he said.
The fire started June 8 in Pike National Forest and the blaze, which became known as the Hayman fire, is still burning. So far, it has consumed more than 100,000 acres and destroyed more than 50 buildings.
With nine other Colorado fires burning at the same time in areas of the state, Gov. Bill Owens declared on national television at one point: “All of Colorado is on fire.” His characterization drew wide criticism as the state that was entering its prime tourism season.
“He’s making it sound real bad,” Shadrick said. “We’ve got 300-some members and three of them were evacuated. There are a lot of parks that aren’t affected by the fire at all.”
Other business operators were similarly chagrined.
“Seventy-five percent of our callers were asking indeed if the entire state is on fire,” Mark Greksa, co-owner of two scenic Colorado railroads, told USA Today. “People are just calling and canceling. I was very disappointed in the governor.”
The day after the fire started, federal officials closed Pike National Forest to all recreational use. The following day Colorado closed all of Roxborough State Park and the backcountry areas of Eleven Mile and Mueller state parks. All campfires, charcoal grills and smoking were prohibited in all state parks.
Prospects are that other national forests will be closed in parts of the West during the summer. “It’s akin to war,” Rick Cables, the Forest Service’s regional forester, told the Associated Press. “We’re going to look at closing forests or parts of forests to eliminate the potential for man-caused fires.”
All or parts of national forests in New Mexico and Arizona also are closed now because of the potential for fires.