FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4)– The President of Colorado State University said the CSU Mountain Campus was spared from the Cameron Peak Fire, largely thanks to firefighters and mother nature. The campus, which is 40 miles west of Fort Collins and 4,000 feet higher in elevation, is only one mile from where the fire line recently stopped.
The mountain campus was threatened after the Cameron Peak Fire quickly grew from 35,000 acres to more than 100,000 in just three days. CSU President Joyce McConnell told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas the firefighters in the area were to credit for making sure the fire didn’t come closer than one mile in each direction.
“(If the fire continued) we would lose one of the most important high altitude scientific centers in the state, where so many people have done so much important work,” McConnell said. “(If it burned) you could see me in tears. I’m really praying that we remain protected.”
For decades the CSU Mountain Campus has served as an outdoor hands-on learning experience for thousands of Coloradans. The university allows college students, and even elementary school students, to use the property to study The Rocky Mountains.
“It’s extraordinarily beautiful, and a very special place,” McConnell said. “It is a high altitude alpine valley. It is a really important outdoor laboratory.”
Migratory birds often stop in the valley. Some of the Poudre River watershed comes from a stream that goes through the campus. Students also study the plants and animals of area as well, and how they respond to weather conditions at 9,000 feet.
“The mountain campus is a jewel for Colorado State University. We rely on it heavily for education not just for CSU, but for Northern Colorado,” McConnell said. “When the fire was sweeping toward it, we were very concerned.”
McConnell said she was praying for protection of the property, as were many others. The firefighters were doing their best when a snowstorm arrived to assist. Inches of snow fell, slowing the blaze and giving firefighters much-needed assistance.
“The snow, thank goodness, has slowed it down tremendously,” McConnell said.
After days of extreme growth, the fire has stayed at just over 102,000 acres for a week. Containment also doubled from 4% to 8%.
McConnell said her prayers and well wishes were with other property owners in the area who were still evacuated, or had lost their properties. She said the university would allow firefighters to stay at the CSU mountain campus while they continue to battle the Cameron Peak Fire.
McConnell said she was optimistic the property would survive, even though the fire isn’t fully contained.
“The fire crew that is up there has been phenomenal. We are going to get through this fire season, and the mountain campus will be intact,” McConnell said “I cannot thank the firefighters enough.”