Extra evacuations gotten in Estes Park area as East Troublesome fire comes to be extremely active; two deaths validated


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The East Troublesome fire burns in Rocky Mountain National Park. (Handout from Rocky Mountain National Park)

More mandatory evacuation orders were issued Saturday morning in the Estes Park area after the East Troublesome fire became “very active” overnight and started making a run toward the town.

Winds in Rocky Mountain National Park, where the fire is burning, are estimated at 60 miles per hour.

“Crews are in place on Bear Lake Road and will attempt to hold the fire west of the road,” fire command said in a Facebook post at about 6 a.m. on Saturday.

Parts of northwest Boulder county have even been placed on pre-evacuation notice as a precaution.

The East Troublesome fire has been burning since Oct. 14 and has torched more than 188,000 acres. It made an epic run on Wednesday night into Thursday morning across Grand County into Rocky Mountain National Park, leaping clear over more than a mile of tundra-covered ridgeline to start a new fire on the eastern slope.

A large number of homes were destroyed and several people are still missing in Grand County.

On Friday night, Grand County Sheriff’s Brett Schroetlin confirmed that at least two people had died in the fire during the blaze’s rapid growth. The bodies of Lyle and Marilyn Hileman, who were both in their mid 80s, were discovered on Friday afternoon by sheriff’s investigators in their home near Grand Lake.

Schroetlin said the two had “refused to evacuate” and wanted to stay in their longtime residence as flames approached.

The Hileman’s family members released a statement through Schroetlin: “Our parents loved Grand Lake. Married at a young age, they honeymooned in the area in 1952. Years later, they would buy the property adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park. The property became a lifelong mission to create ‘heaven on earth.’”

The statement said the couple called a son as the fire approached and homes started burning around them. They were calm and said they were going to shelter in their basement.

When the son tried to call back shortly thereafter, there was no answer. The home was destroyed.

“Our family feels comfort in the knowledge our parents left this world together and on their own terms,” the statement said.

MORE: East Troublesome fire evacuees fled in minutes. Now it could be days before they know the fate of their homes.

On Friday, firefighters felt the blaze would not reach Estes Park. But high winds ahead of a winter weather system moving into Colorado were always a significant danger.

Estes Park has been evacuated since Thursday.

A red flag warning, cautioning of extreme fire conditions, is in effect Saturday for eastern Grand and western Larimer counties, until 7 p.m. Strong winds and low relative humidity, paired with months of drought conditions driven by a changing climate, mean there’s a high likelihood for fast-moving fire.

The National Weather Service in Boulder said winds were gusting to 46 miles per hour in Estes Park on Saturday morning.

On the Grand County side of the fire, crews are also expecting a difficult day battling the blaze.

The cause of the East Troublesome fire remains under investigation. It is just 4% contained.

A winter storm watch is in effect for the burn area and much of the state from 6 p.m. on Saturday until 6 p.m. on Monday. The mountains could receive several inches of snow.

Fire officials say while the winter storm will aid them, it’s not expected to put out the East Troublesome fire and other blazes still burning in Colorado.

Rising Sun

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