What We Know About The East Troublesome And Cameron Peak Fires

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Gov. Jared Polis visits the Cameron Peak Fire’s incident command post, just off I-25 in Loveland. Oct. 23, 2020.

Updated at 11:00 p.m.

Two people died in the East Troublesome fire, the Grand County Sheriff's Office said late Friday.

The couple, Lyle and Marylin Hileman, were in their 80s. They did not follow orders to evacuate and refused all offers they received for help, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said.

"Our parents, Lyle and Marylin Hileman loved Grand Lake," a statement from the Hileman family said. It was read by Schroetlin late Friday night on a Facebook video.

"At 86 and 84 years of age, their only desire was to be together in the home they loved," Schroetlin read. "Our family feels comfort in the knowledge our parents left this world together and on their own terms."

The sheriff's office said they have no reports of other people missing in the fire.

East Troublesome Grows More Than 17,000 Acres Friday And Is Still Dangerous Despite Progress

Updated at 8:00 p.m.

The East Troublesome fire grew by more than 17,000 acres Friday, said Dan Quinonez, incident command trainee for the Pacific Northwest team that's working on the blaze.

"We had a real pleasurable day today in not seeing that (extreme fire) behavior," he said.

Favorable weather Friday and aviation crews helped limit the spread of the fire, Quinonez added. Crews focused on the southern side of the blaze near Hot Sulphur Springs and Granby. Utility companies are assessing when to restore power and gas.

Rather than crews working in a reactionary way to the wind that persisted Wednesday and Thursday, firefighters were able to take precautionary measures Friday, he said.

Despite favorable conditions Friday, Quinonez said firefighters are looking ahead to this weekend's expected snowstorm and what comes after. The snow will evaporate, he said, and crews are preparing for how to handle that.

"We're not banking on that to be a season-ending event by any means," Quinonez said. "It could be a dusting and a very dry snow that you guys have coming through here. What's coming on the backside of that?"

Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said just because fire growth was limited Friday in comparison to previous days, 17,000 acres is still a significant amount of growth, and it's still a very dangerous situation.

"The misconception is that fire came ripping through these neighborhoods and then it's done and it's actually really not," he said. "This is not done. There are still things that need to be done up there to make sure that we secure that before we can get people back into this community."

The fire has burned 188,079 acres and is 5 percent contained. Red Flag Warnings will be in effect Saturday for areas around Granby and Estes Park.

The Next 24 To 36 Hours Are Touch And Go

Updated at 5:16 p.m.

In an update about Colorado's wildfires Friday afternoon, Gov. Polis said the next 24 to 36 hours are touch and go. Meteorologists are forecasting snow in the area beginning late Saturday, and the "precipitation could make a difference" in getting the wildfires under control.

Rep. Joe Neguse — whose Colorado district contains four Colorado wildfires right now — joined Polis in his update, which took place in Boulder among damage caused by the Calwood fire.

Esteban Hernandez/Denverite
Rep. Joe Neguse provides an update on Colorado wildfires with Gov. Jared Polis on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020.

The East Troublesome fire — now the number one priority fire in the state — has nearly reached the Jackson-Grand county line to the north, and potential for spread into Estes Park still exists, fire incident commander Noel Livingston said in an update Friday morning. Currently, crews are trying to hold containment lines near Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs.

Granby — which is on pre-evacuation orders — officials said, is defensible. But at Grand Lake, "we are not out of the woods."

Neguse said federal management assistance grants have been approved at the request of the governor and the state's congressional delegation from FEMA for Calwood, East Troublesome and Cameron Peak. The assistance provides up to 75 percent of cost reimbursement.

Neguse said he couldn't provide info about how much money that could mean since it's largely being spent in real-time. He added that the delegation will be asking for cost-sharing as well from the feds to pay for the national guard

Personnel working on both the East Troublesome fire and another nearby burn, the Williams Fork, is roughly 730 — with 725 prioritizing the East Troublesome fire. Thursday, that number was just less than 500.

It's way too early to give an assessment as to what the burn area looks like, Brett Schroetlin, Grand County sheriff said, as "conditions are changing all the time."

The sheriff cannot confirm any fatalities at this point. His deputies are working on missing persons cases, but the status of those is changing often.

As of 8 p.m. Thursday, the most recent data available, the fire had grown to 170,163 acres and was five percent contained. It grew in every direction except to the west, Livingston said.

Residents of Estes Park, Granby and Grand Lake evacuated Thursday under thick blankets of smoke and an orange sky, jamming roads leading out of the towns.

East Troublesome is now the second-largest wildfire in recorded state history. After it crossed the Continental Divide Thursday afternoon, there was a chance it would merge with the Cameron Peak fire, which is burning west of Fort Collins. As of Friday morning, the Cameron Peak fire — the largest wildfire in recorded state history — had burned 206,977 acres and was 57 percent contained.

Both fires are burning on Federal land.

How the weather is affecting the fires

According to the National Weather Service, Red Flag Warnings are expected in the fire areas on Friday. The forecast in Granby calls for a high above 50 degrees and wind gusts over 20 miles per hour.

In Estes Park, temperatures could reach 39 degrees, and winds are expected to hit 30 miles per hour Friday night. Then rain and snow are expected for areas on the west and east sides of the fire by Saturday night.

"It would be a very positive for us if that forecast is accurate and we get a lot of moisture," Estes Valley Fire Chief David Wolf said Friday morning.

Fire spots progressed east Thursday until they hit the Fern Lake burn scar from 2012, Wolf said. A combination of spent fuel and moisture seemed to slow the fire there, he said. As winds pick up later Friday, Wolf said he's particularly concerned the fire could head south toward the YMCA of the Rockies campus and straight east across the Moraine Park toward Estes Park.

"The Fern Lake fire made a three-mile run in 45 minutes across Moraine Park," Wolf said. "So we we've seen it with our own eyes how quickly fire can move."

"We're going to do everything we can to help protect Rocky Mountain National Park and our community," Wolf said.

It's still unclear how many homes and other structures have been lost

State officials are urging people to avoid traveling to the mountains this weekend, as road closures due to fires have spread the transportation department thin. And snow in the forecast means plows will be out, stretching things further.

Thursday night, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin urged residents to stay patient as they await word on the fate of their homes and properties.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Mandatory evacuations are underway in Estes Park as the Cameron Peak fire and the East Troublesome fire threaten the area. Oct. 22, 2020

"I know there's a lot of you out there that want to know. I want to know, but we want to allow these firefighters to get in there," he said. "And if I put cops in those dangerous spots, I'm basically creating extra work for the fire department, when they could be working on protecting other lives and other structures."

A spokesperson at the incident command center for the Troublesome fire said it would provide a public update at 11 a.m. Friday.

Gov. Polis will also visit some areas near the fires Friday and plans to give an update on the state's response at 4 p.m.

Denverite reporter Esteban Hernandez contributed to this story.