GRAND COUNTY, Colo. — The Grand County Sheriff's Office (GCSO) has confirmed that two people have died in the East Troublesome Fire.
Lyle and Marilyn Hileman, ages 86 and 84, chose to remain in their home just outside of Grand Lake instead of evacuating, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said.
Deputies found their bodies on Friday.
There are no other reports of missing people related to the fire, Schroetlin said.
Fire crews were able to take advantage of cooler weather on Friday to build containment lines and bolster structure protection, but the East Troublesome Fire continued to grow.
The blaze grew from just over 170,000 acres in the morning to 188,076 acres by the evening, with continued 5% containment. Milder conditions meant that air resources were able to fly over the fire for the first time in days.
“The weather has abated, that’s a great thing for us today," said Dan Quinones, one of the incident commander trainees assisting with the fire. "We have the ability to not only keep the fire where it is, but we've also had aviation assets."
Quinones said the western edge of the fire has largely stayed put, and crews are working to keep it from advancing to population centers like Grand Lake and Hot Sulphur Springs.
“The fire continues to move at a slow rate albeit toward Shadow Mountain Lake, Lake Granby," he said. "Structure resources are in there heavy making sure they can do all they can to protect those structures."
He said the coming days were critical in slowing the fire, especially with a winter storm in the forecast for Sunday. He said the wind that will likely accompany the cold front won't be ideal for the perimeters in place, but that crews are "highly optimistic on what we've done."
“We’ve been reactionary over the past few days, today was proactive and we’re going to take advantage of that," Quinones said.
Schroetlin said there are 6,500 homes in the northern reaches of the county, and that his office is working to protect people's homes and work with utility companies to restore power ahead of the cold snap.
Between late Wednesday and Thursday morning, the fire went from about 24,000 acres to about 125,000 acres.
The fire has damaged numerous structures and prompted evacuations of entire towns, such as Estes Park and Grand Lake. The town of Granby is currently under pre-evacuation status, according to Schroetlin.
However, he said Friday that some people have refused to evacuate and are choosing to stay within the fire zone. He said some of those people were moving around the evacuation zones and taking photos of properties, which he said was adding to confusion and misinformation.
"They're providing information from the inside to the outside," he said. "That's actually causing more problems than not, because our people can't work in the field with all these other people moving around as well."
He said when their deputies encounter those people, they urge them to evacuate, and take down their information and location if they refuse so that they know who might still be behind fire lines.
"What ends up happening is a lot of these people who are within our fire perimeters start wandering around neighborhoods," he said. "They're taking pictures of houses that could be potentially damaged which is just increasing that rumor mill."
He said homeowners are finding second-hand on social media that their homes have been destroyed.
"I'm asking people not to do that, we really need to get in there and get that official word out," the sheriff said.
On Thursday, a spot fire made it over the Continental Divide and into Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).
The spot fire traveled more than a mile and over barren terrain above tree line.
"For a spot fire to carry a mile to two is not that common, although, in general, this fire was moving with spotting up to a mile as a fairly common mechanism," said Incident Commander Noel Livingston. "This is a little farther than that. It certainly went over some bare ground, bare rock, above timberline; we were hoping that wouldn't happen."
About 1,200 acres of fire has become established in drainages within the park between the Divide and Estes Park.
All routes into the popular tourist town are now closed, and the roads are open for exit only.
"Evacuate the area immediately and as quickly as possible. Do not delay leaving to gather belongings or make efforts to protect your home or business," a bulletin from the Larimer County Sheriff's Office reads. "Evacuating immediately not only supports your safety but also allows emergency crews better access to the area."
RMNP has been entirely closed to the public, and mandatory evacuations are underway for much of the western side of it and parts of Estes Park.
On Friday, a spokesperson for the park said there were "rapid evacuations" of park staff on Wednesday and that there was "some structure loss" on the west side of the park, but an initial assessment indicates that it is minimal.
She said they've been unable to fully assess the area due to the fire, which is in the area about 1.5 miles from the head of Tonahutu Creek to the head of Spruce Creek. It is in the same general area as the Fern Lake Fire of 2012.
> The video below shows a long line of vehicles leaving Estes Park on Thursday afternoon following the evacuation orders:
For logistical efficiency, fire officials have determined that the spot fires from the East Troublesome Fire that lie east of the Divide will be managed by the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team that is managing the Cameron Peak Fire.
The spots will be known as the East Zone of the East Troublesome Fire.
Pre-evacuation orders have been issued for the town of Granby, Granby Ranch and Grand Elk to Hot Sulphur Springs to County Road 55 to County Road 88.
"At this point no injuries, no deaths, lots of structure loss, to be honest," Schroetlin said.
The fire is believed to be human-caused.
"This is absolutely the most intense fire behavior I've seen in the years that I've been doing wildland fires," Christopher Joyner, the fire information officer for the East Troublesome Fire, said.
Here's a look at what information is available regarding the wildfire right now.
The following areas are under a mandatory evacuation order:
- The town of Grand Lake
- All areas west of Highway 34
- All areas north of milepost 2 on Highway 34 to Rocky Mountain National Park
- Everything north of the town of Granby
- Trail Creek subdivision - Area I
- Both sides of Hwy 125 from milepost 5 to the Grand/Jackson line
- Sheriff Creek / Kinney Creek area
- South of Highway 40 around County Rd 57
"Those are going to remain in place for the foreseeable future," said Schroetlin. "There's really not even a good now to even discuss when we're going to release those."
Here's a map of the Grand County evacuations:
The Larimer County Sheriff's Office has also upgraded these once-voluntary evacuations in Estes Park to mandatory status:
- Rocky Mountain National Park west entrance, Moraine Park, the Estes Park campground
- The southern part of Highway 7 north to Mary's Lake, Peak View Drive including the Aerial Tramway and north to include Deer Ridge
- North border of Fall River Road, south border of US 36, west border of Elm Road, and the east border of Wonderview.
- The north border of St. Vrain Avenue, the west border of Curry Drive, the south border of Acacia Drive and east border of Fish Creek Road.
- The north border of Peak View Drive, west border of Mary's Lake Road and south and east border of Fish Creek Road.
Voluntary evacuations in Estes Park now include:
- An area with a north border of Devil's Gulch Road, west border of MacGregor Avenue, south border of Pierson Mountain and east borders of US 34 and 36.
- Highway 7 from Lily Lake to the Larimer County line.
The Stanley Hotel, located at 333 E. Wonderview Ave., is in an area that is currently under a voluntary evacuation order.
Here's a map of the Larimer County evacuations, which also include the Cameron Peak Fire:
These areas in Grand County are under a pre-evacuation:
- Granby Ranch
- Grand Elk to Hot Sulphur Springs to County Road 55 to County Road 88
An evacuation center was set up in Granby, but now will be moved because it is under pre-evacuation status.
It has now moved to the Headwater Center in the Winter Park/Fraser area just off Highway 40. Evacuees may call 970-725-3803 with questions
People leaving Estes Park via U.S. 34 should now go to the Embassy Suites at 4705 Clydesdale Pwky. in Loveland. Those leaving via US 36 should go to Westminster City Park Recreation Center at 10455 Sheridan Blvd. in Westminster. Those leaving via Highway 7 should go to the Isle of Capri at 401 Main St. in Black Hawk.
Anyone forced to evacuate was asked to register using East Troublesome Fire Evacuee(s) Registration Form to assist with the re-entry process, the GCSO said.
The Joint Information Center will be open until 8 p.m. to answer questions. Call 970-980-2500. It will reopen at 8 a.m. on Friday.
Those evacuating Estes Park via US 34 or US 36 can bring their small animals to the Riverdale Animal Shelter of Adams County. Those evacuating via Highway 7 can take animals to the Gilpin County Fairgrounds.
For assistance with small animal transport, call the Larimer Humane Society at 970-226-3647 x 7.
Both US 34 between Meadow Road and Golf Course Road and US 40 between Nevada Street and US 34 are closed in the area due to fire activity.
Residents in Grand Lake were told to evacuate late Wednesday night as the East Troublesome Fire continued to move quickly east and toward the town.
Video from a Ring doorbell camera at a Granby home shows extremely strong winds pushing flames and sparks toward the home. The owner who shared the video said they're safe because this was their second home. He noted that residents had just about 30 minutes notice before this wall of fire moved into the area.
If you are an evacuee or someone who has been impacted by the wildfires and needs assistance, call 1-800-417-0495.
To sign up to volunteer, email Joshua.Stewart@redcross.org.
In a Friday Facebook post, the Grand Lake Fire Protection District said "many homes were lost" and that crews are "continually searching for survivors and anyone who may have been trapped."
At this point, no fatalities have been confirmed.
So far, no structures have been lost within Grand Lake proper. Three firefighters who live outside of that area have lost their homes, the Facebook post reads.
The sheriff's office said Friday that damage assessment will take time and also noted that due to the changing nature of the fire, some places that were OK earlier might not be OK now.
"Just as I walked in here, people were still up there working on life safety structure protection," Schroetlin said. "It's really too early to give an assessment of what we have in there. Literally, as I'm walking in here, I hear radio traffic from crews in the field, an area we thought was good the other day has fire in it. There's fire close to houses."
He went on to say that the situation has changed with almost every pass through he's made, and said they're not withholding any information but that they simply don't know.
The owner of the historic Grand Lake Lodge previously told 9NEWS Mountain Newsroom Reporter Matt Renoux that it remains intact following the fire.
Some structures have been lost in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park.
The boundaries of the East Troublesome Fire and Cameron Peak Fire are now 11 miles apart, meaning firefighters are preparing for the possibility that the two could merge.
The Cameron Peak Fire is the largest in Colorado's recorded history.
Fire Incident Commander Noel Livingston said that firefighters are preparing for this possibility, and while the East Troublesome Fire is a top priority in the state, it is competing with Colorado's other wildfires and those on the West Coast for resources.
During an update on Thursday evening, fire officials said cold temperatures on Thursday helped a spot fire slow down its movement toward the town of Estes Park.
Forecasted snow this weekend is projected to help firefighting efforts, but won't be enough to fully extinguished them, an NWS spokesperson said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
PHOTOS: East Troublesome Fire
Forest Service Closures
The U.S. Forest Service announced new closures to public lands, citing "extreme fire behavior."
The Sulphur Ranger District has been added to the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest’s temporary closure of National Forest land in Grand, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Boulder, Larimer and part of Jefferson counties, effective at noon Thursday.
The Routt National Forest will be adjusting its area closure into Jackson County.
The closure area includes the southern Troublesome area west of Highway 125 and north to Willow Creek Pass. Also included are public lands in the area east of the Highway 125/US 40 junction to US 34 and north to Grand Lake.
Key trailheads and landmarks in the closure area include: Wheatley, Elk Mountain, Bill Miller, Trail Creek, Willow Creek Pass, Illinois Pass, Stillwater Pass, North Supply, Supply Creek, Idleglen and Willow Creek Reservoir. The Bowen Gulch Protection Area and the southern portion of the Never Summer Wilderness Area are included in the closure.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has also implemented two area closures encompassing approximately 32,000 acres in Grand and Jackson counties. You can see the exact closures in the maps here.
The Georgetown, Bergen Peak & Mount Evans State Wildlife Areas are also closing indefinitely due to concern over the expanding fires and extreme fire conditions. Refunds to hunters with second season rifle tags in that unit will be offered.
Complete wildfire coverage: https://9news.com/wildfires.
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Local stories from 9NEWS