A winter storm battering Colorado on Sunday and into Monday is giving firefighters battling the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak fires a much-needed reprieve.
“We don’t anticipate any fire growth today or tomorrow with this storm. It may be quite a few days before we see any fire activity whatsoever,” said Paul Delmerico, operations section chief on the Cameron Peak fire and the Thompson Zone of the East Troublesome near Estes Park. “That’s great news for our firefighters on the ground.”
Noel Livingston, incident commander for the Grand County side of the East Troublesome fire, said the winter weather is allowing crews to “get things mopped up and secure.”
Several inches of snow have fallen across the high country. As much as 6 inches of snow was reported in Grand Lake.
A winter storm warning is in effect for the burn area through 6 a.m. on Monday. Cold temperatures are expected to stick around for much of the coming week.
The break comes after the East Troublesome fire made an epic run Wednesday night into Thursday across Grand County and into Rocky Mountain National Park, burning homes and killing two people near Grand Lake. The fire has torched nearly 200,000 acres so far and is just 10% contained.
On Saturday, high winds pushed the fire closer to Estes Park, but firefighters kept the flames from advancing toward the town or YMCA of the Rockies, which was under significant threat.
Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said all missing and unaccounted for people have been located.
“We do not have any other people on our missing persons or (unaccounted for) lists at this time,” he said Sunday.
Schroetlin cautioned, however, that the East Troublesome fire is not over and that the potential for disaster continues.
“We’re not out of the fire potential,” he said. “We have to plan for the unprecedented.”
Schroetlin said Grand County has compiled preliminary estimates of the number of homes destroyed and damaged by the fire, but he declined to release that information, saying he wants it to be totally accurate before it’s made public.
The homes of several first responders were destroyed by the East Troublesome fire, the Grand Lake Fire Protection District said in a Facebook post.
“We have a lot of homes, unfortunately, that are destroyed,” Schroetlin said.
The cause of the East Troublesome fire remains under investigation. Authorities preliminarily believe it was caused by a person or people. It has been burning since Oct. 14 and is the second-largest fire on record in Colorado.
Mandatory evacuations remain in place in Grand and Larimer counties, including for the communities of Grand Lake and western Estes Park, because of the East Troublesome fire.
The town of Estes Park is now under a pre-evacuation status.
Rocky Mountain National Park remains closed.