Evacuations ordered as Colorado wildfire rages

Phil Helsel
·2 min read

Colorado residents in Grand Lake were forced to evacuate Wednesday night as wind-fueled flames roared near the town in the central part of the state.

The East Troublesome Fire, which began Oct. 14, grew by at least around 5,000 acres Wednesday.

Fire officials said that fire activity had "increased significantly" Wednesday night and residents of Grand Lake, which has a population of around 400, were told to leave. Other areas were also under new evacuation orders.

The blaze also closed western areas of Rocky Mountain National Park.

No injuries have been reported.

The fire was impacting the Grand Lake area and the Highway 34 corridor, fire officials said. Firefighters were working to contain the fire on the west side of highway, the Grand County Office of Emergency Management said.

There are several large wildfires burning in Colorado, including the largest in recorded state history, the Cameron Peak Fire in the mountains west of Fort Collins.

"The safety of the communities being impacted and our firefighters remains our highest priority," a statement on an interagency web site, InciWeb, said in a statement Wednesday night of the East Troublesome Fire and the new threats there.

Image: r m (David Zalubowski / AP)
Image: r m (David Zalubowski / AP)

The blaze was estimated to be about 30,000 acres Wednesday night, fire incident commander Jay Winfield said in a video briefing.

High winds and smoke grounded heavy helicopter and air tankers that had been flying Wednesday morning, he said. The fire is 10 percent contained, fire officials said earlier.

"As we began today we were hovering right around that 19,000 acreage mark, so significant growth today," Winfield said Wednesday evening.

The Cameron Peak Fire, which is northeast of the East Troublesome Fire, has burned more than 206,000 acres and was 55 percent contained Wednesday.

It has sent smoke billowing over Fort Collins and Colorado’s Eastern Plains, destroyed more than 100 structures and forced hundreds to evacuate their homes, The Associated Press reported.

Wildfires have erupted in several western states this year, including in California in what officials there have called an unprecedented wildfire season.

On Wednesday, thousands of firefighters in California battled 20 wildfires, 12 of which were major incidents, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Since the beginning of the year, well over 4.1 million acres in California have burned and more than 9,200 homes and other structures have been destroyed, according to the agency.

Thirty-one people across the state have died.

In Oregon, wildfires this year burned an estimated 1.2 million acres and destroyed more than 4,000 homes, and killed nine people, according to the state office of emergency management.