GRANBY, Colo. (CBS4) — The East Troublesome fire forced more evacuations Thursday and grew to more than 170,000 acres into the afternoon.
“The fire got ahead of us. There’s no doubt about it and no matter how quick you can actually pull the trigger to get people evacuated things happen,” said Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin.
Schroetlin, along with several local officials, addressed media and the community Thursday morning. He said the growth of the fire in less than 24 hours caught everyone off-guard.
“The growth that you see on this fire is unheard of. One hundred thousand acres… never expected. You plan for the worst, this is the worst of the worst of the worst,” Schroetlin said.
During the meeting, he announced the town of Granby was on a pre-evacuation order. In a matter of hours, sheriff’s deputies were going door to door, telling people to leave.
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“They’re going around telling us we’re on mandatory evac so everybody’s packing up and getting out of here,” said Granby resident Autumn Fischer.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, along with Silverthorne Police, were among the agencies working to evacuate homes, tying red ribbons on the doors of everyone they contacted.
“We live right here at the edge of Granby so it’s time to go,” said Christy Potter.
With help from her brother, Potter got her son in the car and some belongings. She didn’t hesitate to leave but the decision wasn’t easy.
“I’ve lived in Grand County almost my whole life and it’s just… really hard,” she cried.
Schroetlin said there were several homeowners, within the perimeter of the fire, who choose to stay despite their best efforts to convince them otherwise.
“So, we have that conversation with them and then we have to continue moving on down the road to save as many lives as possible during these short evacuation times,” he said.
The total number of structures lost wasn’t known Thursday, but the sheriff said there were many.
“To the extent of what the structure loss is, I have no idea. Right now, we’re really focusing on life safety.”
Matthew Reed is among those who lost his house in Grand Lake — he worked hard to build it, and Wednesday night, it burned to the ground.
“It’s been a little bit of a train ride. For sure. We lived in our house for 11 months, it took three years to build and it’s gone,” said Reed.
Talking with CBS4 Thursday, he had a hard time keeping his composure.
“Got my daughter and my wife and my mom and her family and good friends with us,” he said.
Reed barely had time to escape Wednesday. He knew the fire was close but had no idea how fast it was moving. He went to check on his neighbors and, even without an evacuation notice, they decided to leave.
“My friend’s wife came running out of the house about 30 seconds after I got there and said it’s in trail creek, it’s on the hill right there, we have to go right now,” he said.
It wasn’t long after he received a notice to evacuate.
“Started throwing everything I could into my snowmobile trailer and left. I couldn’t do anything else,” he continued, “We got like four bags of clothes out of the house, everything else is gone.”
Reed, along with a friend, went back to help local fire crews that night, who Reed said were running out of fuel.
“We took a trailer and my truck, and we took approximately a thousand gallons worth of gas and diesel to ’em to keep ‘em going.”
He said the entire community was helping Wednesday through the fast-moving flames, including the Grand County Public Works Director, Keith Everhart, who Reed calls a hero.
“If Columbine is saved, it’s because of him. He was up all night in a town loader going around pushing trees, downed power lines everything out of the way so the fire guys could get around and save one house to another,” said Reed.
It was a long night. Reed evacuated to the Inn at Silver Creek in Granby, only to evacuate again. Adding to the pain he says, is the fact that the fire was human caused.
“…and now it has cost I don’t know how many people’s houses.”
Reed knows many who have lost their homes so far.
“All my friends. This morning I heard 400 homes… is what the fire chief and the fire crew estimated.”
One of his biggest concerns is for those who choose to stay behind, including his friends, an elderly couple who live not far from him.
“They were awesome, awesome people. The guy was even a Denver fireman for a majority of his career.”
While delivering fuel to firefighters Thursday, he learned their home had been destroyed.
“The fire chief confirmed that he got there with the help of the public works director with one of the loaders… and it’s gone. The basement is gone. “
Reed is now staying with friends in Winter Park and said the entire community has stepped up to help those impacted with whatever they need.
The Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office tweeted on Thursday that anyone being evacuated from one of the Colorado fires can go to the Isle of Capri Casino at 401 Main Street in Black Hawk.
Red Cross volunteers are on-site and ready to assist you.