GRAND COUNTY, Colo. — As the containment of the East Troublesome Fire increases, fire officials are beginning to look at downsizing the number of personnel at the fire.
On Thursday morning, Pacific Northwest Team 3 Incident Commander Noel Livingston said Wednesday was busier than Tuesday at the fire as crews worked to get more people to their properties.
The fire remains at 193,774 acres, but as of Wednesday morning, containment had increased from 20% to 30%.
During a press conference Thursday morning, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said at least 250 structures were lost in the fire.
Livingston said most of the efforts Wednesday were focused on moping up the corridor between Granby and Grand Lake, as well as bringing down hazardous trees along the East Inlet Trail to use as a future holding line if need be. Crews were able to get about a mile into the trail Wednesday and will continue the work for about four miles total.
Livingston said the north side of the fire was unstaffed Wednesday because there was no fire activity there.
He said managers are making plans Thursday morning to downsize the number of personnel at the fire as the snow continues to slowly melt off.
Schroetlin said crews are still seeking out some of the hotspots around the fire during this "intermission."
The fire hasn't grown since Sunday, when 6 to 12 inches of snow began to fall across the entire fire. It wasn't enough to completely extinguish the blaze, but enough to pause its growth.
Dan Quinones, PNW Team 3 Incident Commander Trainee, said they do not anticipate any fire growth that would be of concern for several weeks, and potentially longer.
Weather conditions Thursday at the fire will be similar to Tuesday and Wednesday — sunny, cool but warming up, and with a drying trend. Fire activity will likely increase as warmer temperatures and gusty winds could revive the fire heading into Thursday. A strong inversion will move in below 9,000 feet, which could create smoky conditions.
Over the past few days, many evacuation orders have been downgraded. Click here for an interactive evacuation map, which is also shown below.
Around 9:20 a.m., the Grand County Sheriff’s Office announced a re-entry plan for areas on the west side of Highway 34. The sheriff's office detailed how this will work in the Facebook post below.
Anybody with a home in the evacuation area is encouraged to fill out a property verification and notification form so officials can contact you about re-entry instructions and damage notifications.
Video from the area west of Highway 34 showed just how intensely the fire burned and how close it got to some homes in the area that were spared.
Here’s the view from inside one of the newly reopened neighborhoods. We’re told this field and hillside used to be completely covered in trees and vegetation, now charred and ash on top of snow. You can also see how close flames came to homes here @DenverChannel pic.twitter.com/IEgwKagEDv
— Jason Gruenauer (@JGonTV) October 29, 2020
County Manager Kate McIntire said anybody with long-term housing options available for evacuees should call 970-725-3803. In addition, mental health service at the disaster assistance center set up at the Inn at Silver Creek, which will open Friday. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m to 2 p.m on weekends.
On Thursday, the Colorado Department of Revenue (CDOR) said it understands some businesses will be unable to meet Colorado filing and payment deadlines as a result of the East Troublesome fire, so it is offering relief on state-collected taxes to Colorado businesses who have been affected. This is not automatic, so affected businesses in the covered disaster area must call the tax information hotline at 303-238-7378 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to request penalty and interest relief if they receive a bill, CDOR said.
The Forest Service said the closure of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests will continue through the weekend.
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): 193,774 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.
Mike Morgan with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control said to put the East Troublesome Fire into perspective, it grew 108,000 acres overnight in mid-October — the same amount that the Spring Creek Fire of 2018 grew in a month.
"To put it in perspective, the largest fire coming into 2020, was the Hayman Fire in 2002," he said. "At end of the 2020 fire season, it's sitting at No. 4. We have had three larger fires — Pine Gulch, Cameron Peak, East Troublesome. So my hat is off that nobody has been hurt. I applaud everyone's efforts."
Fire Chief Kevin Ratzmann of the Grand Lake Fire Protection District said recovery from the fire will be a long haul.
"Unfortunately, this is Grand County's 9/11," he said. "This is one of the worst events, if not the worst event, that has ever hit our county."
The East Troublesome Fire started Oct. 14 and its cause is under investigation.
Denver7 Gives has started a new fundraising campaign for victims of Colorado's wildfires with all proceeds staying to help our local neighbors. See how you can donate here.