Updated Nov. 3, 7:09 a.m.
Many families that had to quickly evacuate from their homes due to the East Troublesome fire near Estes Park and Granby were allowed back into the area on Sunday. More residents are expected to follow on Monday.
In a Facebook post, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said it was a challenging day for first responders and the families who were able to re-enter three subdivisions.
"I will never forget watching a family return to their house for that first time; parents trying to find anything they can to move forward, children trying to find that favorite toy, and each grieving in their own way," he wrote. "There was no words that I could say that made this any better for those families; but what I can say is that with each new day, we are continuing to move forward as a community."
Some families have been out of their homes since Oct. 20. The fire, which started Oct. 14, has grown to be the second-largest fire in Colorado history at 193,774 acres. Currently, containment stands at 37 percent.
The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Schroetlin said the fire’s secondary effects on transportation and utilities made opening the area back up to residents more challenging.
The fire destroyed more than 300 homes and between 100 and 200 secondary structures like barns and garages.
"Everywhere you turn someone’s life was turned upside down," Schroetlin wrote. "Each one of these numbers is a friend, family, co-worker, or neighbor with a loss; it is truly unimaginable."
The majority of evacuated areas will be reopened Monday with limited utility access, the Sheriff’s Office said, but some are still not safe. Closures on Highway 125 and County Road 491 will remain off-limits until further notice.
All evacuation orders, mandatory and voluntary, from the Larimer County Sheriff's Office were lifted Monday morning. The Cameron Peak fire — the largest fire in the state's recorded history at 208,913 acres — is now 85 percent contained.
Recent winter storms helped slow the fire’s growth, but warm and dry weather this week could increase fire activity.
Still, fire officials are hopeful they will be able to contain more of the fire in the next couple of days. There's no immediate worry that the fire will grow dramatically, according to Estes Valley Fire Protection District Fire Chief, David Wolf.
"We still have snow on the north aspects so we still have quite a bit of time on some areas and it’s allowed us to work our way through it systematically," Wolf said.
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