ESTES PARK, Colo. (CBS4) – New mandatory evacuation orders were given Saturday morning Coloradans living along Highway 34 between Estes Park and Drake. The East Troublesome Fire continues to advance on neighborhoods after enormous growth on Wednesday.
Extreme fire weather conditions are expected on Saturday along and adjacent to the Continental Divide where a Red Flag Warning is in effect. Westerly wind gusts up to 60 mph with occasional speeds even higher will be common.
An estimated 4-6 inches of snow is expected to fall in the are of the fire starting at 11 p.m.
At around midday, aerial support was used because of the lack of wind at that time.
The Town of Estes Park declared a local emergency because of the wildfire.
Town Administrator Machalek signed a Declaration of Emergency Due to Wildfire on Oct. 23 https://t.co/nTLqPH5qcR
— Town of Estes Park (@TownofEstesPark) October 24, 2020
Crews are monitoring the Hwy 34 corridor as well as the north side of the fire into Jackson County and along Highway 40 in what’s being referred to as the Grand Zone.
“Engines will continue to hold the line and keep the fire to the north of the highway, using the method of cold-trailing which includes carefully inspecting and feeling with your hands to detect any heat from the fire and extinguishing any areas they may find,” fire officials said on Saturday.
Officials say the fire did not burn any additional homes on Saturday.
On Friday, a spot fire grew to more than 1,700 acres on the east side of the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountain National Park. That fire is now being referred to as the Thompson Zone and is being handled by the Cameron Peak Fire officials. They say it is in the same general area of the Fern Lake Fire of 2012.
Officials say the fire in the Thompson Zone is about one mile west of Bear Lake Road, and they expect the fire to push east through Saturday. This fire is not contained.
Forest Service officials say, as of Saturday afternoon, the spot fire was still holding west of Bear Lake Road, and the east side of the fire split into two “fingers.” One is moving along the Big Thompson River, and the second along Mill Creek.
Officials say the fire has been aggressive on Saturday, and crews had a tough day fighting it.
“There not out of the woods by any means,” said a fire incident commander.
Crews say there is still a lot of work to do, but they are anxiously waiting for incoming weather.
“Relative humidities are expected to rise over the next few hours, as winds as expected to reduce. This will cause fire behavior to moderate and put more options on the table.”
The East Troublesome Fire, as a whole according to Inciweb, is estimated to be 191,000 acres. It is 4% contained. It remains the second largest wildfire in state history.
The Cameron Peak Fire, actively burning several miles away, is the largest wildfire.
The Red Cross says all three previously established evacuation sites are still open. Evacuees can go to the Embassy Suites in Loveland, the Westminster City Parks/Rec Center, and the Isle of Capri in Blackhawk.
The Grand County Sheriff’s Office says the re-entry process is still in limbo because of the ongoing fire activity. They add there are “tons of plans in place” to get homeowners back to their properties.