Story at a glance
- The East Troublesome fire has grown to 125,600 acres with just 5 percent containment.
- The blaze grew in size from about 30 square miles to more than 196 square miles in approximately 10 hours.
- The fire forced the entire evacuation of the town of Grand Lake, which is located about 30 miles northwest of Boulder.
A Colorado wildfire exploded in size overnight Wednesday forcing an entire town to be evacuated and the Rocky Mountain National Park to close.
The East Troublesome fire burning in Grand County and extending into the Rocky Mountain National Park is now the state’s fourth-largest wildfire in Colorado history after growing to about 125,600 acres Thursday morning with just 5 percent containment.
The blaze grew in size from about 30 square miles to more than 196 square miles in approximately 10 hours.
The fire forced the entire evacuation of the town of Grand Lake, which is located about 30 miles northwest of Boulder. The town has a population of about 400 people and evacuation orders were also issued to surrounding areas.
The wildfire was sparked last week but grew exponentially in size Wednesday as the region was under a red flag warning due to low humidity and strong winds.
“It was really an amazing amount of fire spread yesterday,” Noel Livingston, the fire’s incident commander, said during a Thursday morning briefing.
“We saw about 20 miles of fire growth throughout the day and throughout the night, which equated to about 100,00 acres of additional fire activity,” Livingston said.
Livingston said the fire is being fueled by dead, dry timber and dry and windy conditions that will continue to challenge containment efforts, and he anticipates another day of large fire growth.
The rapidly growing fire prompted the Rocky Mountain National Park to completely close after the fire tore through the southwest corner of the park on Wednesday evening.
Three of Colorado’s five largest wildfires on record have occurred this year. The Cameron Peak Fire, which is the state’s largest, is still burning west of Fort Collins. The entire state is experiencing some level of drought, with 38 percent experiencing severe drought and more than 42 percent facing extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The situation in Colorado comes as the western United States has experienced an unprecedented wildfire season driven by higher temperatures and worsening droughts that have been linked to climate change. Six wildfires that raged through California were among the top 20 largest wildfires recorded in the state’s history.
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