- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 22, 2020

Hundreds of residents in north-central Colorado have evacuated the area to escape an intensifying wildfire, as officials prepared for another day of rapid fire spread despite weather forecasts predicting lower temperatures for the region.

The East Troublesome Fire grew about 20 miles or 100,000 acres Wednesday afternoon and evening, igniting beetle-killed timber and spreading north of Grand Lake and into Rocky Mountain National Park, said Noel Livingston, fire incident commander for Pacific Northwest Team 3.

“So an amazing amount of fire spread yesterday,” he said Thursday morning, noting that extremely dry conditions, low humidity and winds contributed to the fire’s spread.

As of Thursday, the East Troublesome Fire, which is located near Grimes Peak on the Arapaho National Forest, spread more than 125,600 acres and was 5% contained, according to an InciWeb fire map. On Wednesday, fire officials reported the fire had spanned 19,000 acres and was 10% contained.

“Unfortunately, today is another fire day,” Mr. Livingston said. “We have forecasted high winds coming in this afternoon with a cold front passage. We have again forecasted dry conditions, and we obviously still have a lot of available fuel for this fire to continue to spread in. So we anticipate another day of large fire growth.”

Grand County’s sheriff late Wednesday ordered all areas west of Highway 34 and other areas to evacuate due to the growth and proximity of the fire. The cause of the East Troublesome Fire is still under investigation. The fire began Oct. 14, and fire officials are striving to have it contained by Nov. 10.

Other fires are burning in the state, including the Cameron Peak Fire north of East Troublesome. The Cameron Peak Fire, in the mountains west of Fort Collins, spans more than 206,900 acres and was 55% contained Thursday. The fire has destroyed more than 100 structures and forced hundreds to flee their homes, The Associated Press reported.

The damage from the East Troublesome Fire is unclear. The Grand County Office of Emergency Management said it planned to start assessing damage Thursday.

“We know that many in our community are looking for information this morning about possible property damage and news of friends and loved ones,” the department said in a Facebook post. “Please be patient while fire crews and first responders continue to work in difficult and very active conditions.”

Officials helped evacuate 6,592 homes in Grand County on Wednesday night, according to Colorado’s emergency management division.

Wildfires have broken out in several western states this year, with the majority in California. Firefighters were battling 61 large wildfires that have burned almost 4 million acres in 13 states as of Wednesday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

Data shows at least 17 of those fires are burning in California, 10 in Idaho, seven in Oregon and five in Colorado.

“In Colorado, typically the fire season is over by mid-October when the snows fly, so we’re seeing a later than usual season there. Anecdotally, we have seen fires in the mountains of Colorado very late in the year but that’s the exception rather than the rule,” said Christina Boehle, spokeswoman for the National Park Service fire division.

Arizona, Montana, Utah, Washington and Wyoming also have active fires.

In California, more than 6,700 firefighters on Wednesday were battling 20 wildfires, 12 of which were considered “major incidents,” the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. Due to strong wind gusts, the National Weather Service has issued several red flag warnings for parts of Northern California through Friday evening.

There have been more than 8,700 wildfires that have burned more than 4 million acres across the state since the beginning of the year. Wildfires in California have killed 31 people and destroyed more than 9,200 structures.

This year, there have been more than 46,500 fires that have burned more than 8.4 million acres across the U.S., NIFC data show. This year ranks ninth in acres burned since 1983, when more accurate record keeping began, according to the National Park Service. The year 2015 saw the most acres burned in the states with more than 10.1 million acres.

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