Colorado towns forced to evacuate after new wildfire's explosive growth

Colorado residents are facing emergency evacuations.

October 22, 2020, 8:14 PM

Colorado residents are facing emergency evacuations after explosive growth from a new wildfire, the latest of the state‘s growing infernos.

The entire town of Grand Lake was forced to evacuate Wednesday night after the East Troublesome Fire grew six times in size to encompass over 125,000 acres west of Denver.

PHOTO: The East Troublesome Fire burns north of Granby, Colo., Oct.21, 2020.
The East Troublesome Fire burns north of Granby, Colo., Oct.21, 2020.
Jessy Ellenberger/AP

“It’s pretty scary. Everybody I know, all of my friends, we got out,” said Grand Lake evacuee CarrieAnn Fain.

PHOTO:  Evacuee CarrieAnn Fain fled from the East Troublesome Fire in Grand Lake, Colo., Oct. 21, 2020.
Evacuee CarrieAnn Fain fled from the East Troublesome Fire in Grand Lake, Colo., Oct. 21, 2020.
CarrieAnn Fain

The fire burned close to 6,000 acres within an hour, destroying an unknown number of structures. Grand County sheriff’s deputies went door-to-door to help evacuate the town quickly.

“We got flame lengths jumping off the top of the ridges,” firefighter John Demaris told KMGH-TV.

Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said during a press conference Thursday that it was the fire’s explosive growth that led to a “worst of the worst” case scenario.

PHOTO: Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetli shares a personal message about wildfires on Facebook, Oct.21, 2020.
Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetli shares a personal message about wildfires on Facebook, Oct.21, 2020.
Grand County Sheriff's Office

“We planned for the worst. This was the worst of the worst of the worst,” Schroetlin said on Thursday.

Late Wednesday night, Schroetlin also addressed the community in a video message posted on the Grand County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

“Today has been an extremely, extremely challenging day for our community,” said Schroetlin, who praised first responders. “They made some incredible rescues, some incredible evacuations, and they worked here for you.”

“Our community is Grand,” he added. “We are, without a doubt, and we’ll get through this together.”

Fueled by dry, windy conditions, the fire crossed through Rocky Mountain National Park Thursday afternoon, forcing it to close. Under an eerie dark orange sky, Estes Park became the latest town to evacuate Thursday due to the approaching inferno.

PHOTO: A resident of Estes Park, Colorado evacuates due to the East Troublesome Fire, Oct. 22, 2020.
A resident of Estes Park, Colorado evacuates due to the East Troublesome Fire, Oct. 22, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Colorado Public Radio News

"Evacuate the area immediately and as quickly as possible," an emergency message from the Larimer County Sheriff's Office read. "Do not delay leaving to gather belongings or make efforts to protect your home or business."

The East Troublesome Fire is now the fourth largest fire in Colorado State history. Colorado’s largest fire ever, the Cameron Peak Fire, is burning simultaneously less than 12 miles away.

PHOTO: A firefighter is silhouetted as Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado's history, burns outside Drake, Colo., Oct.17, 2020.
A firefighter is silhouetted as Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado's history, burns outside Drake, Colo., Oct.17, 2020.
Loveland Fire and Rescue via Reuters

Overall, seven fires are currently scorching across the Centennial State and strong gusty winds are expected in the latter half of the week, making the danger of a spreading fire critical.

ABC News’ Max Golembo contributed to this report.

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