Evacuations downgraded at East Troublesome Fire, though officials warn it's not over

East Troublesome Fire_by Brett Rios Photography
Posted at 9:43 AM, Oct 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-02 08:39:39-05

GRAND COUNTY, Colo. — The East Troublesome Fire's containment has increased from 15% to 20% as of Tuesday morning. As much as the snow helped firefighters, fire officials say it won't completely extinguish the blaze.

The fire's acreage remained the same at 192,560 acres. It's the second-largest wildfire in state history behind the Cameron Peak Fire, which is currently burning about a few miles northeast.

Snow fell across the entire fire Sunday and Monday, dropping between 6 and 12 inches. Officials said Monday this would halt the fire's spread for a few days, during which firefighters would try to secure containment lines.

Randy Johnson, deputy incident commander for Pacific Northwest Team 3, said the snow was not a fire-ending event.

"The moisture content in this amount of snow does not equate to enough precipitation to consider this a season-ending event," he said.

However, the conditions did allow several changes to evacuation orders, including several changing from mandatory to voluntary. Others were lifted entirely.

READ MORE: How you can help victims of Colorado's wildfires

Click here for an interactive evacuation map, which is also shown below.

East Troublesome Fire evacuation map_Oct 27 2020

On Tuesday, firefighters will engage "thoughtfully" and take advantage of the opportunity to patrol and secure fire lines, Johnson said. They'll try to button up the line along the southern edge near communities, repair and refresh equipment, and begin work with the Grand County Sheriff's Office on re-entry for the public, he said.

On Monday afternoon, the Grand County Sheriff's Office announced a re-entry plan for residents on the east side of Highway 34:

  • 2 p.m.: Authorities will open all areas south of Highway 34 and County Road 6 east and west on both sides of the highway, including all areas of County Road 6. County Road 40 would remain closed.
  • 4 p.m.: Authorities planned give residents access to areas on the east side of Highway 34 north into Grand Lake, just north of the Gateway Inn. Areas to the west of Highway 34 will remained closed as crews continue their work.

In addition, fire crews will escort damage assessment crews into the evacuation areas on Tuesday. Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin estimated around 100 homes were damaged as a result of the fire and anticipated an official number may be available later in the day.

Schroetlin said it's been difficult getting in contact with homeowners since many properties in the county are second homes. He said they need property owners in the evacuation zones to fill out a Property Verification and Notification form to move the process along.

Johnson said crews woke up to temperatures around 11 below zero Tuesday morning. Conditions will warm up and dry out, leading to snow evaporation and a little snow melt, which can add moisture to the fuel in the coming days, he said. Temperatures will climb into the 50s for the rest of this week.

"We're at the time of the year where if we do have that warm and dry (weather), it will likely be short-lived, but fire history in this area says that things can still be active well into December even, from some of the history that we've picked up here locally," Johnson said.

In a press conference Tuesday, Pacific Northwest Team 3 Incident Commander Noel Livingston said the snow has done a great job in quieting fire activity, though it's created challenges for fire crews. He said the long term plan is to look at modeling to determine what needs to be done to keep the fire from spreading in the coming days.

The East Troublesome Fire was reported on Oct. 14 north of Hot Sulphur Springs. Its cause remains under investigation.

Three of the largest wildfires in Colorado history occurred this year. These are the state's 10 largest wildfires, ranked by acreage:
1. Cameron Peak Fire (2020): 208,663 acres
2. East Troublesome Fire (2020): 192,560 acres
3. Pine Gulch Fire (2020): 139,007 acres
4. Hayman Fire (2002): 137,760 acres
5. Spring Fire (2018): 108,045 acres
6. High Park Fire (2012): 87,284 acres
7. Missionary Ridge Fire (2002): 72,962 acres
8. 416 Fire (2018): 54,000 acres
9. Bridger Fire (2008): 45,800 acres
10. Last Chance Fire (2012): 45,000 acres
Note: The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center said the West Fork Complex fire, which burned a total of 109,632 acres in 2013, is not included on this list since it involved three separate fires.

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