Colorado Olympian recalls fire, what she chose to take with her, as town rebuilds

Grace Latz_Grand Lake Olympian
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 08:02:14-04

GRAND LAKE, Colo. — When the flames of the East Troublesome Fire started quickly moving toward Grand Lake and mandatory evacuation orders went out, residents had minutes to grab whatever they could before fleeing town. One of those residents was Grace Latz, an Olympic rower, who was left with a tough choice of what to grab.

“When we got those orders to go, it was go time,” she said. “It was — grab those things by the door, throw them in the car, make sure the dogs are in there and drive.”

She had planned ahead and packed a go-bag but didn’t have time to put a rack on her car and bring her boat.

“I tried to think of, what can I not replace? And the Olympic blazer was one of them,” she said, showing off her navy jacket with the Olympic Rings sewn on.

READ MORE: The untold stories of resilience and recovery in Grand Lake after the East Troublesome Fire

Latz made it out safely, and her home was spared by the flames. Many of her friends and neighbors weren’t so lucky.

Grand Lake Olympian encourages visitors to return as town rebounds

“Everybody here knows, you know, at least 2, 3, 4 families who don't have a home and are displaced or trying to rebuild,” she said.

Latz now works for the local chamber of commerce, and as the town rebuilds, her focus has shifted to letting people know what happened and what Grand Lake is now.

“There's the misconception that the town is gone, but the town's very much here,” she said.

READ MORE: Burn scars: A historic fire and a Colorado mountain community in healing

Grand Lake’s mayor called the town “singed but spared.” And Latz knows the importance of visitors to the area’s recovery.

“It's a big tourist place. It's a big summer destination, a big winter destination,” she said.

She, and the residents here, simply ask for understanding from those coming to pay a visit.

“Most everything is open, but also, just keep in mind that people — somebody you may be talking to casually may have lost their house,” she said.

For more information on visiting Grand Lake, click here.