Story at a glance
- The wildfire has burned more than 170,000 acres since last week, with the majority of the spread occurring over the past two days.
- About 45,000 acres of additional fire growth happened on Thursday alone.
- Residents of Estes Park, Granby and Grand Lake evacuated under thick blankets of smoke Thursday, jamming roads leading out of the towns.
The East Troublesome Fire in Colorado has exploded in size to become the state’s second-largest wildfire on record, devastating northern parts of the state and forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes.
The blaze burning in Grand County and extending into the Rocky Mountain National Park has burned through more than 170,000 acres since it was sparked last week and is just 5 percent contained. The majority of the spread occurred over the past two days as it was fueled by strong winds and extreme drought conditions, with about 45,000 acres of additional fire growth occurring Thursday.
Residents of Estes Park, Granby and Grand Lake evacuated Wednesday and Thursday, jamming roads leading out of the towns, according to KUSA. Long lines of vehicles were seen making their way out the town of Estes Park as hundreds moved to get out of harm’s way.
At least five people were unaccounted for as of early Friday, but no deaths have been confirmed as a result of the blaze.
“We continued to see a lot of active fire growth yesterday [Thursday],” Noel Livingston, the fire’s incident commander, said during a Friday morning briefing.
Livingston said the fire is being fueled by dead, dry timber and dry and windy conditions that will continue to challenge containment efforts.
“Today will be another very active fire day with windy conditions making the use of aviation a challenge,” Livingston said.
The blaze also prompted Rocky Mountain National Park to close to the public Thursday after tearing through the southwest corner of the park on Wednesday evening.
The East Troublesome Fire is the second largest behind the Cameron Peak Fire burning west of Fort Collins that has burned more than 206,000 acres and is currently 57 percent contained.
The dire situation in Colorado comes as the western United States is going through an unprecedented wildfire season driven by higher temperatures and worsening droughts that have been linked to climate change. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the entire state of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought, with 38 percent experiencing severe drought and more than 42 percent facing extreme drought.
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