US Forest Service says Colorado’s East Troublesome Fire was human caused

East Troublesome Fire October 21, 2020
East Troublesome Fire October 21, 2020 as seen from Colorado’s Multi-Mission Aircraft.

The East Troublesome Fire, the second largest wildfire in Colorado’s recorded history, was human caused, investigators said on Friday.

The October, 2020 fire burned 193,812 acres in Grand County. It created spot fires across the Continental Divide then spread to within a few miles of the town of Estes Park.

“Based on evidence gathered at the fire’s origin, investigators have determined the fire to be human caused,” the U.S. Forest Service said in a news release.

The Steamboat Pilot reported that the Grand County Sheriff’s Office released similar information during a meeting in March 2021, but this is the first time the Forest Service has issued it.

Saying it was human caused eliminates two possibilities — lightning and a volcano, which can often be ruled in or out very quickly. The USFS news release said their investigators, along with the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, are continuing to investigate.

Map of the east side of the East Troublesome Fire near Estes Park
Map of the East Troublesome Fire near Estes Park.

“Given the location and time of year that the fire started, it may have been caused by a hunter or a backcountry camper, and possibly by accident,” investigators said in a news release on Friday.

More than 300 homes and between 100 and 200 other structures were destroyed in the blaze. Lyle and Marylin Hileman, 86 and 84, respectively, died in the fire when their home near Grand Lake burned.

The largest wildfire in Colorado in terms of acres burned was the Cameron Peak Fire. It burned 208,913 acres in 2020 in Larimer and Jackson counties, Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forest,  Rocky Mountain National Park, and surrounding communities.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please keep in mind our commenting ground rules before you post a comment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

12 thoughts on “US Forest Service says Colorado’s East Troublesome Fire was human caused”

  1. Poor Colorado, at the State level it is not prepared to deal with wildfire. We moved away because the Denver-Front Range has become another Los Angeles of WUI sprawl. Say what you will about California, but the one thing they know how to do is fight fire because they’re experienced! Colorado, not so much and the people are already suffering for it. For those that know the area can you imagine what a fire in Evergreen, CO will be like? I can only envision a managed retreat, if that’s even possible.

  2. Was a Volcano actually a realistic possible source of the East Troublesome fire start ?

  3. Yep

    After owning a parcel and rebuilding a home in Evergreen…I can fully imagine what a fire would appear to be like!!!

  4. I lived in Evergreen and can attest that it is WOEFULLY unprepared for even a mediocre wildfire even at the 85th percentile. The Cheif, Wegee, is a 100% structure guy and has total tunnel vision on building an absurd new fire station that he can deck out with the choicest structure engines. He has an unabated blind spot and total lack of wildland skill/staffing to handle the WUI situation he is in, it scared the sh__ out of me but the residents of Evergreen are blissfully ignorant and Land Roving around nonetheless.

    Meanwhile the State agency, DFPC, is certainly NOT Cal-Fire (not even close, Cal-Fire has land and DP authority). At the top they are run by structure FF’s that seem to think buying shiny things is the way to put fires out. Couple all of this with the fact that Colorado is in the stone age concerning non-fed lands. The County Sheriffs have protection authority on all non Fed lands, NOT DFPC. Think about that. CO is experiencing 200K acre fires and little county law enforcement agencies are the ones in charge!?!?!?!? It makes zero sense and is insanely dangerous. Would it make sense to have DFPC be the chief LE agency in Colorado??? Of course not.
    Between DFPC and every county Sheriff in the State there isn’t a single ICT3 amongst them and mayyyybe one DIVS qualled person. It’s bonkers. To exacerbate the situation, DFPC has the ear of the governor and have led him incomprehensibly astray while leaving the non-fed parts of the state exposed and in danger they cannot even fathom.

    The R2 Forest Service is another issue all together. Most of their Forest Mgmt plans and subsequent fire planning are from the 80’s, when CO was considered “asbestos” , that is certainly not the case anymore. The FS in CO is conservatively about 25 years behind the curve. Even with the infrastructure money are there going to be more engines? Crews? Dozers? Facilities? NOPE! All of that money is being consumed like swill beer by a drunken college student at the RO and SO’s as they create myriad new admin positions to help their admin people and the admin people under them….all at the GS11/12 and up pay grade, of course.

    CO is doomed and even if they tried to turn it around now nobody wants to even work for the FS anymore. Nobody can afford a house here, not even GS 11/12/13’s let alone GS5-8 firefighters, ahem Forestry Techs. Even if they created new primary fire positions 1/2 of them would go unfilled, at best! Doomed.

  5. Glad I’m retired 24hr shift worked great lots of work done more then 16’s To much BS before shift so only work 8hrs if your lucky with 16hr shift. Good Luck ?

  6. I live in CO and have been impressed with evacuation notices and the response times of local fire departments. On several fires the FS didn’t even show up.

  7. A question, why was my valid about the East Troublesome fire investigation comment removed ?

  8. I was on the phone with my son when the troublesome fire started around about 4 pm. He lives on a mountain south of Parshall , The fire was not named at time , but he said it was in the Troublesome creek area. I look on locaal maps I have and watched it grow. In the meantime he headed for Grand lake to help evacuate friends he knew. In my earlier years I lived in Moraine Park where the sparks from fire landed. What a mess when it was over. I later years I lived in the Evergreen years later where a lot of your comments were from.

  9. If you are referring to a comment, it was not removed. It never came through. Sorry you’re having trouble. Please send it again.

  10. I believe it, probably because they don’t have the resources to respond to mutual aid/mutual threat. When you only have 2 type 6 engines to cover 600k acres you cannot take on the additional acreages that Mut aid and Mut threat encompass. Like I said, CO’s fire planning is 35 years behind, and the RO doesn’t care as long as they’re getting QSI’s. If the Clear Creek RD of the AR was plopped in CA, it would have 12 engines, 2 dozers, 2BC’s etc etc. Instead it has…2 type 6 engines.

  11. Hi Bill, don’t know why my comment did not go through but,

    Colorado is approx 20 yrs behind Kali For Nia in Wildland fire control but are now starting to get it.
    As far the East Troublesome fire, determining the cause as human caused is a no brained. There were several other fires in Grand County in the previous weeks, all stated to be “human caused”. Very interesting as there had not been ANY wildfires in the county in previous years. I do believe from my years in both Wildland and structure fire fighting that the FS is ignoring the possibility of these fires being arson caused. Piss poor investigation, a year later, what’s left to determine cause after being crushed by a winters snowpack.
    What’s up, not sufficient numbers of investigators or what ?

    As a side note, this Forest does not even have any type of fire engine on the Forest, not one as stated to me by the front office person. So you can see that without ANY I.A. , any fire is going to have head start !

Comments are closed.