The crash of an air tanker landing at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport on Saturday prompted officials to shut down their fire retardant re-supply operation at the Broomfield airport for the day.

The crash, which resulted in no injuries to the pilot and co-pilot, came as the Cow Creek Trail wildfire in a remote section of Rocky Mountain National Park grew to 1,500 acres.

Kyle Patterson, a spokeswoman for the park, said the shutdown of the slurry operation at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport didn't “significantly” hamper fire-fighting efforts in the popular national park because aerial attacks on the blaze would have been called off Saturday afternoon due to poor weather conditions.

She said fire crews have ordered helicopters to drop water on the fire Sunday, and she hopes that will offset the absence of any air tankers on the job.

Wendy Forbes, a spokeswoman for North Metro Fire Rescue, said it's not certain when slurry re-supply operations will resume at the airport. Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport is the only slurry re-supply operation on the Front Range, she said. 

The other three bombers that were operating out of the airport are currently grounded on the tarmac. The next closest slurry re-supply depot is located in Grand Junction.

Forbes said authorities first need to determine what happened to the Lockheed P2V-5 Neptune that slid off the runway and crashed through a boundary fence as it tried to land around 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

The plane, which FAA records show was built in 1954, lay on a grassy embankment overlooking the Eldorado Ridge office park, with one of its wheels resting on West 120th Avenue. Its nose was shattered and one of its propeller blades was bent. 

Forbes said some jet fuel spilled onto the roadway, but had been contained by emergency officials.

The pilot reported a “hydraulic failure” onboard, Forbes said. He attempted to apply the brakes on the bomber, but to no avail. The left engine on the plane caught fire, she said, but was quickly put out.

Forbes said the pilot told investigators he had been dropping slurry on the blaze in Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday morning and had flown back to Broomfield for a re-supply.

Erratic winds continued to drive the Cow Creek Trail fire to the west, north and northeast in a remote area of the park about seven miles from the nearest road, said Patterson, with Rocky Mountain National Park. Firefighters will focus on protecting the small community of Glen Haven, which is about six miles east of the fire, she said.

Rocky Mountain National Park remains open along with most park trails, she said. Friday night, as a precaution, four park rangers hiked the North Fork Drainage of the park and asked 24 registered campers to hike out.

A second fire called the Round Mountain Fire broke out west of Loveland and south of Highway 34, about four miles west of the Damn Store. The fire grew from about three acres to 150 acres.

In Southern Colorado, a 630-acre wildfire was contained Friday.

Authorities are investigating whether the Royal Gorge train ignited the fire.

Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 
Contact Camera Staff Writer John Aguilar at 303-473-1389 or aguilarj@dailycamera.com.