East Troublesome Fire over 170,000 acres, merge with Cameron Peak a threat
The East Troublesome Fire grew over 100,000 acres Wednesday overnight, mapped at 125,602 acres Thursday morning. Estes Park, Colo., has been evacuated as of Thursday at 1 p.m., as well as Grand Lake the previous day.
The fire, currently the fourth largest in state history, is 5 percent contained. The potential of the East Troublesome and the Cameron Peak Fires merging remains a concern but an update from the fire officials indicated that the incoming cold front Thursday kept growth in check. The two fires are currently less than 10 miles apart. The fire grew 45,000 acres Thursday, mapped at 170,163 acres at press time Friday. According to the Grand County Sheriff, evacuations remain in place due to erratic fire behavior and winds. The town of Granby is currently in pre-evacuation status.
Chief Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe said Friday night will bring high winds along the Divide, some gusts over 60 miles per hour. Saturday will bring 60 mph gusts again in the area of the fires through Saturday evening. The storm system Bledsoe predicts could bring 6 to 12 inches of snow into Monday.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday in a press conference that the safety of residents is the priority though crews are working to preserve property and structures.
Red flag conditions are complicating efforts though rain and snow are forecasted in the coming days. According to officials, the fire is being driven by active winds and areas of heavy fuel, including beetle-killed timber.
The Cameron Peak Fire, mapped at 206,977 and 55% containment is continuing to move both north and south, driven by critical winds. According to Rocky Mountain Area Commander Scott Albert, protection of life and communities is key. There are not sufficient resources to completely envelope the fires so they are in a defensive mode to protect lives and property.
According to Albert, mutual aid, aerial support, local emergency management, Colorado State Patrol, local law enforcement, and federal emergency management, the National Guard and others are all involved in what he called a robust effort to fight both the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome Fires.
Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg said her department noted the challenges to livestock producers in California as a result of lengthy power outages. Greenberg said her department is monitoring current and potential outages and the division of brand inspections has been active in assisting with evacuations.
Strong west winds are expected over the weekend with potential snowfall Saturday evening and into Sunday. Meteorologist Greg Hanson said this snow will not likely end the fire season but could slow it. He said it is unusual to experience fire threat this late into the year but the huge amount of fuel is complicating efforts.
The Calwood Fire is at 9,978 acres and 24% containment, the Left Hand Canyon Fire is 460 acres and 43% containment, and the Middle Fork Fire is mapped at 20,194, Williams Fork mapped at 14,670, and the Ice Fire at 583 acres.
The C Lazy U Ranch and other ranches evacuated hundreds of horses Thursday. According to the Larimer County Sheriff’s Posse, over 280 animals have been housed at The Ranch in Loveland. Hay and feed donations have come in and posse members are providing overnight security.
The Orr Ranch, homesteaded in the late 1800s is currently threatened by the fire, with cattle being transported Friday. According to a social media post by Tonya Orr Perez, mismanagement of beetle-kill timber has long been a concern and challenge for the ranch though they have worked hard to reduce the amount of fuel on their land. The family ranch is located between the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak Fires, making the potential threat of the two merging a very real threat.
“As the fire approaches Granby tonight, we cannot help but get anxious over our family’s heritage being burned to the ground with no remnants left to show the next generation,” Orr Perez wrote. ❖
— Gabel is the assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 768-0024.