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East Troublesome Fire was human-caused

The U.S. Forest Service made the announcement Friday afternoon.

GRAND COUNTY, Colo. — The East Troublesome Fire that burned through more than 190,000 acres in 2020 was human-caused.

The U.S. Forest Service made the announcement on Friday afternoon. 

It was one of the largest wildfires in state history. 

Its sheer size and speed in which it grew shocked everyone, from locals who had to evacuate to first responders and scientists. 

The fire, which sparked on Oct. 14, 2020, burned more than 350 homes in Grand County.

Based on evidence gathered at the fire’s origin, investigators determined the fire to be human-caused, the Forest Service said.

"Given the location and time of year that the fire started, it may have been caused by a hunter or a backcountry camper, and possibly by accident," The Forest Service said in a press release. 

The wildfire, which was one of the largest in Colorado’s history, began northeast of Kremmling on the Arapaho National Forest. 

"It was fueled by wide-spread drought, numerous dead and down beetle-killed trees, red flag weather conditions created by high winds and dry conditions, and low humidity," the Forest Service said. "The combination of these factors led to unprecedented, wind-driven, active fire behavior with rapid spread."

Numerous residences, outbuildings, and commercial structures were destroyed or damaged before the fire was finally contained on Nov. 30, 2020. It had burned a total of 193,812 acres.

Credit: Taken in 2021
Part of the East Troublesome Fire burn scar.

Grand Fire Protection District Fire Chief Brad White said it's a cause they initially expected. 

"But a manmade ignition in the fall in a very dry forest," he said. "As we see our forests and our land management lands used more and more heavily every year, you know, these situations are going to come up more and more."

White explained that lightning-caused fires often start in trees, roots or heavier fuels. That can cause them to grow slowly. 

Whereas human-caused fires start on the surface, often in lighter fuels that carry faster on windy days. 

"As a fire community and a law enforcement community, probably just need to look at how we can staff, you know, some patrolling folks better. Get more folks on staff and do some patrolling during those high use periods and some education," he said. 

In addition to trying to bolster local resources and training, White says they've worked hard with partners across the state and legislators to bolster resource mobilization during big events. 

This includes recent bills signed by Democratic Governor Jared Polis following this past legislative session, White said. 

According to the National Park Service, nearly 85% of wildland fires are started by humans.

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Wildfires in Colorado


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