East Troublesome Fire Explodes as Other Blazes Rage

The East Troublesome fire on October 16, as it was gathering strength.
The East Troublesome fire on October 16, as it was gathering strength.
The CalWood and Lefthand Canyon fires in Boulder sparked with a vengeance in recent days, joining the enormous Cameron Peak fire in northern Colorado as among the most worrisome conflagrations during the state's still-raging wildfire season. And now, Grand County's East Troublesome fire, which has only been burning for a matter of days, has exploded to more than 125,000 acres, triggering great concern and significant evacuations.

Here's the latest about East Troublesome and more about the other major blazes:

According to the most recent update to East Troublesome's page on the federal Inciweb system, the fire got started north of Hot Sulphur Springs at around 4 p.m. on October 14 and had consumed 19,086 acres as of a week later. Containment was estimated at just 10 percent, despite the efforts of 295 firefighters. "Fire activity has increased significantly since our evening update," the site noted.

That's all too true: The fire is now reportedly in excess of 125,000 acres — six time larger than noted in the previous alert.

Even before this exponential growth, Grand County's Office of Emergency Management had been steadily broadening its edicts over the past week, escalating from pre-evacuation orders for the area to the west of Highway 34 and east of Highway 125 on October 16 to a mandatory evacuation for those in the Sheriff Creek/Kinney Creek zone mere hours later. On October 17, evacuations expanded to those living on both sides of Highway 125 from milepost 5 to the Grand/Jackson county line — and the highway itself was closed because of heavy smoke.

On October 21, the situation worsened considerably, necessitating immediate action by the Grand County Sheriff's Office. At 6:21 p.m., a mandatory evacuation order was put in place for the Trail Creek subdivision, Area I. At 6:57 p.m., a similar order was enacted for all areas west of Highway 34. And at 7:31 p.m., an order was enacted for all areas north of milepost 2 on Highway 34 to Rocky Mountain National Park. The notice ends with an all-caps message: "GO NOW."

Today, October 22, "resources will be busy on the northwest of the fire dropping water and retardant to stop the fire flanking further to the northwest," according to the Inciweb page. "Smoke from the northwest and southeast fire fronts will shade out the northeastern finger of the fire slowing growth toward COLO 125."

click to enlarge Some of the damage done by the East Troublesome fire as of October 19. - INCIWEB
Some of the damage done by the East Troublesome fire as of October 19.
It adds: "Ground crews are working along the northwest flank reinforcing dozer and retardant lines curbing northwest expansion of the fire. The fire has moved onto Bureau of Land Management and private lands in the southeast, and into Kinney Creek drainage. On the southeast portion of the fire, dozer and hand line construction continues in efforts to prevent further fire advancement to the south. The structure protection groups continue to install hose lays and sprinklers around structures along the COLO 125 and Hwy 40 corridors."

The East Troublesome fire isn't the first to strike Grand County this season. Residents were already dealing with the Williams Fork fire, which started over two months ago in a sector nine-and-a-half miles southwest of Fraser and definitely isn't history yet. The Inciweb update shows that 14,670 acres have been ravaged thus far, and containment is at just 26 percent.

In Boulder County, the CalWood fire, which originated three miles northwest of Jamestown, now measures at 9,978 acres and is 24 percent contained — and shifting winds have forced the evacuation of Lyons Park Estates residents. The Lefthand Canyon fire, one mile east of Ward, is smaller at 460 acres and containment has reached 43 percent, but dangers remain there as well.

And Cameron Peak? The largest fire in Colorado history, burning fifteen miles southwest of Red Feather Lakes, isn't over. Its size is currently estimated at an astonishing 206,667 acres, and its 55 percent containment hasn't moved much over recent days. Firefighters hope that snow forecast for the weekend will help smother it and all the other wildfires that have disrupted so many lives.