Cars clog highways as families flee East Troublesome Fire in Colorado

Areas in and around Rocky Mountain National Park are going up in flames as the East Troublesome Fire and Cameron Peak Fire, the two largest in Colorado's history, are burning on two sides of the park.

Posted: Oct 25, 2020 8:11 AM
Updated: Oct 25, 2020 8:11 AM

The East Troublesome Fire continues to devastate parts of northern Colorado, swallowing homes and businesses in its path.

Long lines of cars made their way out of the area as the fire grew Thursday. And traffic out of the small town of Estes Park was crawling as hundreds tried to evacuate, according to CNN affiliate KUSA.

Families who have already fled the area have been watching their homes go up in flames on home security cameras. One woman saw the fire rush toward her family cabin and doesn't know if anything is left of her house.

"I can't begin to tell you, it was so gut-wrenching when I opened up the app and I saw fire coming up our driveway and up the hillside," Katy Brown told KUSA. "It was horrific, absolutely horrific to watch. I've never experienced anything like that before."

The East Troublesome Fire located near Grimes Peak in the Arapaho National Forest has burned more than 170,000 acres and is only 5% contained. Evacuations are continuing to be implemented across Grand County.

Residents numb with disbelief

As cars clogged the highways with people trying to flee the fire in Larimer County, Colorado, a thick layer of smoke blocking out the sun could be seen hanging over the area. One resident who was told her home had been destroyed didn't know how to react.

"You're numb. You've been told that it's gone but you don't want to believe it. So until you see the ashes you just survive," she told KUSA.

Another woman who was told she had lost everything says she's still finding it hard to believe. "You think of the craziest things like the Christmas presents you just bought for your grandkids, and the bedrooms you prepared for them. And you never think it's going to happen to you," Marjorie Cranston told CNN affiliate KMGH.

But some who are fleeing the flames are still hopeful. "It's sad, a lot of people are affected by it. We're fortunate right now ... but tomorrow is another day," one man told KUSA.

Dry weather conditions

The weather conditions are not helping.

Strong winds and dry weather are fueling an explosive growth of fires in Colorado. And conditions are likely to stay the same for the next couple of days.

The dry conditions will remain until Friday night, when some light precipitation will begin as rain and then turn into snow for the weekend, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. The weekend snow of a couple inches could finally help firefighters contain the flames. As of now, 93% of the West remains under some sort of drought condition.

Fire is still growing

The "unprecedented conditions" in Colorado caused the East Troublesome Fire to burn more than 130,000 acres on Thursday, the National Interagency Fire Center reported Friday.

The type of growth the fire is experiencing is "really unheard of for a fire in this part of the world, in timber," Livingston said.

"Today was a very trying day for us, as well as for a number of other fires, with the cold front passage," Livingston said. The cold front passage throughout the afternoon had pushed the fire right into the areas of most concern, he added.

Livingston said incident command has orders in for additional resources to fight the fire. He added that the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

NIFC says there are 54 active large fires that have burned more than 3.9 million acres in 11 states across the country.

"Firefighters met containment goals on five large fires" since yesterday, according to NIFC's update.

Oregon's largest fire, the Lionshead Fire, has burned 204,469 acres and is 67% contained.

In California, the August Complex Fire has grown to 891,320 acres and is 92% contained, while the Creek Fire burned through 357,656 acres and was 61% contained on Friday, said the NIFC update.

So far this year, there have been 46,681 fires in the US, burning 8,608,646 acres -- nearly double the acreage burned in 2019, according to NIFC.

Fires this year also surpassed the 10-year average of 6,348,594 acres burned, NIFC statistics show.

Replacement ballots for voters

Officials will provide replacement ballots for people who request them by Monday or pick them up at a voter service and polling center in their county, according to the Colorado Secretary of State's office.

"Voters displaced outside of their county can receive a replacement statewide ballot at any VSPC in the state. Those who have voted their mail ballot can place it in any drop box in the state of Colorado, and it will be forwarded to their appropriate county," officials said in a statement.

In Colorado, every voter receives a ballot by mail. Voters can return completed ballots by mail or take them to drop-off locations. They also have the option to vote in-person at a voter service and polling center.

Firefighters and displaced residents are allowed to receive and return an emergency ballot by the state's electronic ballot delivery system.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated how people in Colorado vote. While ballots are mailed to every registered voter, residents can cast ballots in person if they choose.

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