East Troublesome Fire, second largest in Colorado history, was human caused, investigators say

Late October 2020 fire burned 193,812 acres and destroyed 580 structures
Posted at 4:45 PM, Jun 03, 2022

DENVER – The 2020 East Troublesome Fire – the second-largest wildfire in Colorado history – was human-caused, and exactly who started it and how remains under investigation, the U.S. Forest Service said Friday afternoon.

Officials and locals in Grand County have said since shortly after the fire started they believed it would likely be ruled to be caused by humans based on where the fire started northeast of Kremmling near Troublesome Creek on Oct. 14, 2020.

“Based on evidence gathered at the fire’s origin, investigators have determined the fire to be human caused,” Donna Nemeth, a spokesperson for the USFS, said in a news release Friday. “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. Investigators from [the USDA Forest Service Law Enforcement & Investigations and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office] are working to identify the person or persons responsible for starting the fire. The investigation remains active.”

After the fire’s start on Oct. 14 that year, it would burn through a few thousand acres until Oct. 21.

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

That afternoon and evening, fueled by bone-dry conditions and hurricane-force winds, the fire burned 6,000 acres an hour eastward toward Grand Lake. It grew from 19,000 acres to 170,000a record for rapid-fire expansion in Colorado — in about 36 hours and forced the evacuation of more than 35,000 people.

It would jump the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park and make a run toward Estes Park after burning through most of the edges of Grand Lake.

The fire would burn a total of 193,812 acres, destroy 580 structures, including 366 residential structures, and kill two people who retreated to their basement to try to ride the fire out. It was fully contained in late November that year.

Residents are still working to rebuild those structures destroyed by the fire, which was one of three that burned later in the summer, or in the fall, of 2020 and became the three largest wildfires in Colorado history. The East Troublesome Fire, at 193,812 acres, is just behind the Cameron Peak Fire (208,913 acres), which is the largest in state history.

The U.S. Forest Service said it continues to investigate the fire’s cause and would release more information as it was available.

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