COLORADO — Rocky Mountain National Park is closed due to the East Troublesome Fire moving over the Continental Divide and into the park. Evacuations were ordered Thursday afternoon for Grand Lake and Estes Park.
It’s a historic fire among an unprecedented wildfire season. The East Troublesome Fire quickly took the title of the state’s 2nd largest wildfire in Colorado’s history. This comes after the fire burned 100-thousand acres on Wednesday alone and another 50-thousand acres Thursday.
“That’s far and away the fastest fire growth in colorado history so I think most of us are just shocked at watching how fast that fire grew, moving from the west to the east toward grand lake and across Hwy 34,” said Matt Rogers.
Rogers is research scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) in Colorado. He’s part of the team that created this useful data set for looking at fire growth in real-time. Watching Wednesday’s loop shows the hot spot from the fire’s heat. You’ll notice it quickly start expanding northeast and putting out an immense amount of heat.
“We didn’t really have the sensors needed to detect things like fire. We could see smoke plumes from space. But now we can actually use these new infrared bands that are on the satellite to see active fire. And that gives us a very good idea of where fires are burning and then critically how fast they’re burning.”
The flames called for people to evacuate in a hurry.
“It’s hard to fathom how big it really is and how fast it’s travelled. I may have lost everything,” said one person leaving their home near Grand Lake.
As of Thursday night, the East Troublesome Fire is burning over 170,000 acres, and only 5% contained. This follows an active Wednesday where flamed advanced about 20 miles moving into Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.
“There’s a lot of destruction coming through the mountain. I mean, you’ve got flame lengths jumping off the top of the ridges. 300 or 400-foot flame lengths coming off,” Firefighter John Demaris said.
Strong winds over the fire pushed in into areas filled with dead pine from bark beetles. From here the fire exploded in size as it burned through this dry vegetation. The fire crews were unable to drop retardant on the fire Thursday due to strong winds.
“The growth that you see on this fire is unheard of. 100,000 acres, never expected. We plan for the worst. This is the worst of the worst,” said Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin.
“Getting up close to the fire edge. The intent is to get some fire on that dosier line to prevent further fire spread south toward the community of Granby and that area. So far that operation has been successful,” said Noel Livingston, Wildfire Incident Commander.
Three of Colorado’s five largest wildfires on record have burned this year including the East Troublesome Fire.
Windy and dry weather on Friday may fuel more fire growth as a front brings strong winds with gusts around 50 mph. But a weekend front will bring some of the coldest air of the season along with snow in Colorado finally bringing relief for fire crews.