Firefighters stop East Troublesome Fire outside Estes Park, Colorado

Operations Chief said they had a “very good day” Saturday

October 25, 2020   |   8:10 a.m. MDT

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

Firefighters on the Cameron Peak Fire tasked with handling the portion of the East Troublesome Fire threatening Estes Park did some serious firefighting Saturday, stopping the fire before it could spread into the wildland urban interface. They used existing fuel treatment areas where the vegetation had been thinned or removed, as an anchor from which to conduct a firing operation to widen the buffer between the fire and the community.

Paul Delmerico, the Operations Section Chief, Saturday night:

The fuels treatments helped significantly. Those fuels treatments are what gave us a really good defensive start to our day today when we saw that. It gave us something to work off of and to build off of.

The fire made a run just north of Moraine Park.Our firefighters picked up that [fuel treatment] and did a firing operation and held it just north of Moraine Park and then we had a couple of hand crews in there today and we picked that up with direct hand line. We were able to go up and over the ridge and back down and tie it in with existing road systems.

Our firefighters out there are doing a heck of a job. We had a really good day today, considering the fuel conditions and the weather conditions.

Hazardous Fuel Treatments near Estes Park
Previously constructed Hazardous Fuel Treatments near Estes Park, current October 24, 2020. It is not clear if the projects were prescribed fire, mechanical vegetation treatment, or both.

Saturday evening rain followed by snow put at least a pause on the fire activity. Six to twelve inches are in the forecast through Monday. The final status of the fire will depend on the weather over the next several weeks. If it continues to be wet, it could be the demise of the fire; however, fires can sometimes survive for months under a blanket of snow. If the humidity continues to be very low with no additional precipitation much of the snow could evaporate (or sublimate) reducing how much water moves into the vegetation and the soil.

Estes Park weather forecast
Forecast at 9 a.m. MDT October 25, 2020.

Firefighters were also successful on the portion of the East Troublesome Fire west of the Continental Divide before the rain and/or snow began Saturday evening. The strong winds did not result in any major catastrophic runs.

Map of the East Troublesome Fire
Map of the East Troublesome Fire, 8:09 p.m. MDT October 24, 2020.

Very few fires have burned in Rocky Mountain National Park in the last 40 years

There is plenty of fuel available for the East Troublesome Fire

October 24, 2020   |   2:56 p.m. MDT

Map of the Fire history of Rocky Mountain National Park
Map of the wildfire history of Rocky Mountain National Park from 1980 through October 23, 2020. The east and west boundaries of the park are close to highways 34 and 7.

Very few large wildland fires have burned in Rocky Mountain National Park in the last 40 years. Official records show only one that has exceeded 1,000 acres — the Fern Lake Fire that covered 3,330 acres in 2012. There were a couple of fires in the late 1970s west of Allenspark that each burned less than 1,000 acres.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the East Troublesome Fire, including the most recent, click here.

There is an unofficial report that the East Troublesome Fire burned through the footprint of the Fern Lake Fire before noon today, October 24. The 643-acre Big Meadows Fire of 2013 has also been burned over.

Hazardous Fuel Treatments near Estes Park
Hazardous Fuel Treatments near Estes Park, current October 24, 2020. It is not clear if the projects were prescribed fire, mechanical vegetation treatment, or both.

The bottom line is, most of the vegetation in the park has not been visited by fire in recorded history. This means a fire burning in a fire-starved forest under the current drought conditions and a strong wind, would be virtually impossible to stop until those conditions change. And a big change is due after sunset today with rain followed by snow which will continue through Monday.

At 10 a.m. Saturday the East Troublesome Fire was mapped at 191,000 acres and was spreading to the east.

Wildland firefighters are scarce this time of the year

About one-third of the Hotshot Crews that started the season are still working

October 24, 2020   |   11:38 p.m. MDT

Interagency Hotshot Crews availability, 2020
Interagency Hotshot Crews availability, 2020. Data compiled by Area Command Team 2 September 30, 2020. Notations on the chart about the geographic areas were made by Wildfire Today.

The East Troublesome Fire near Estes Park, at this point is the second largest fire in the recorded history of Colorado. The top three all burned this year.

  1. Cameron Peak, 2020, 206,977 acres
  2. East Troublesome, 2020, 188,389 acres
  3. Pine Gulch, 2020, 139,007 acres
  4. Hayman Fire, 2002, 138,144 acres

During the wind event that is unfolding as this is being written, it is conceivable that the East Troublesome Fire could become the largest. For a fire this size, over 188,000 acres, it has a relatively small number of firefighters assigned, 424 as of Saturday morning. The nearby Cameron Peak Fire has 1,903 personnel and that fire has taken over the portion of the East Troublesome Fire east of the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Wildland fire resources are scarce this time of the year with many crews losing their funding in September and October. Of the 113 Interagency Hotshot Crews in the U.S., only about 35 are still funded and available for fighting fire. In two weeks that number drops to around 13 according to projections in a September 30, 2020 planning document compiled by an Area Command Team (ACT).

The functions of Scott Jalbert’s ACT that is in Colorado now is to provide decision support to Multi-Agency Coordination Groups for allocating scarce resources and help mitigate the span of control for the local Agency Administrator. They also ensure that incidents are properly managed, coordinate team transitions, and evaluate Incident Management Teams.

The western fire season is long from being over. Red Flag Warnings are in effect on Saturday or Sunday in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and California. Weather forecasters expect winds could reach 100 mph in some exposed areas in California’s North Bay and East Bay on Sunday, while other nearby locations could see winds up to 40 mph.

Strong winds Saturday could push East Troublesome Fire closer to Estes Park

Two people who refused to evacuate were killed in the Colorado fire

Updated October 24, 2020   |   6:35 p.m. MDT

East Troublesome Fire
Map, east side of the East Troublesome Fire at 4:45 p.m. MDT Oct. 24, 2020.

At about 5:50 p.m. there was a report of sleet and light rain at the fire, which has paused at Bear Lake Road, about a mile west of Estes Park.

The weather station near Estes Park recorded wind speeds Saturday afternoon at 10 to 15 mph with gusts above 30 mph, while the relative humidity was in the low 20s and the temperature was 53 degrees.

East Troublesome Fire
Mr. Mauro is an anchor and reporter at @KDVR, FOX31, and @channel2kwgn

Updated October 24, 2020   |   1:48 p.m. MDT

map East Troublesome Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park
Map of the Thompson Zone of the East Troublesome Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado Multi-Mission Aircraft map at noon MDT Oct. 24, 2020. Estes Park is at upper-right..

Updated map of the East Troublesome Fire — noon October 24. At noon the fire was well into Moraine Park and was approaching Beaver Brook.


Updated October 24, 2020   |   12:12 p.m. MDT

map East Troublesome Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park
Map of the Thompson Zone of the East Troublesome Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado Multi-Mission Aircraft map at about 10 a.m. MDT Oct. 24, 2020. Estes Park is at upper-right.

Colorado’s Multi-Mission aircraft mapped the portion of the East Troublesome Fire that is in Rocky Mountain National Park at 10 a.m. Saturday and determined that since Friday it had spread east about two miles. At that time it had almost reached Moraine Park Campground. The entire fire now covers about 191,000 acres.

A weather station near Estes Park has been recording strong winds since Friday night. The latest, at 11:24 a.m Saturday, was 14 mph with gusts to 37 mph, with 24 percent relative humidity and temperature of 54 degrees. This wind direction, if it continues, will push the fire toward Estes Park.

Additional evacuations have been ordered. https://nocoalert.org


October 24, 2020   |   9:13 a.m. MDT

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

An elderly couple who refused to evacuate were killed when their home near Grand Lake, Colorado burned in the East Troublesome Fire. Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin read a statement from their family describing how officials and a family friend drove through roadblocks Wednesday to rescue the couple, but their offers to leave were refused.

Strong winds during the Red Flag Warning in effect Saturday could cause the 188,389-acre fire to spread farther to the east in the general direction of Estes Park.

(You can zoom in and move around on the map below. The red line is the perimeter at 12:40 a.m. MDT Oct. 24, 2020. The thin black line was the APPROXIMATE perimeter mapped through partial cloud cover at 8:30 p.m. MDT Oct. 22, 2020. The red shaded areas represent intense heat.)

In spite of the temperature dropping to 16 degrees near Estes Park Friday morning, overflights Friday night by a satellite and a fixed wing mapping aircraft detected intense heat in what began as a spot fire that jumped across the 10,000 to 12,000-foot elevation Continental Divide. As the East Troublesome Fire rapidly burned toward the Divide on Thursday, burning embers were carried up into the smoke column and transported more than a mile ahead, starting the spot fire on the northwest side of Mt. Wuh about 7 miles west of Estes Park.

Friday morning it was approximately 1,400 acres but was held in check during the day by very high humidity; as the weather changed it became active early Saturday morning. A satellite overflight at 3:42 a.m. showed that it had spread over a mile to the east and southeast beyond the perimeter mapped by a mapping aircraft at 12:40 a.m. A weather station near Estes Park recorded the humidity dropping into the 20s and the wind speeds increasing after 9 p.m. Friday. A gust of 46 mph occurred around 5 a.m.

A web camera at Rocky Mountain National Park’s Fall River entrance had previously shown fence-like barriers blocking the road while the park is closed, but at 9:01 a.m. Saturday the barriers were laying flat on the road, possibly blown over.

Fall River Entrance Cam
Fall River Entrance Cam at Rocky Mountain National Park, at 9:06 a.m. October 24, 2020. NPS photo.

The forecast for Estes Park Saturday calls for the passage of a cold front bringing strong 22 mph winds out of the west gusting above 30 mph, with relative humidity in the low 20s. But beginning at sunset rain followed by snow is expected which will continue through Monday, possibly amounting to about 9 inches of snow.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the East Troublesome Fire, including the most recent, click here.

West of the Divide, in the Grand Lake and Granby areas, the forecast is similar — very strong west winds with rain and then snow Saturday evening.

Firefighters have made progress in the last two days on the west and south sides of the fire, putting in fireline and conducting burnouts in the Granby area, which could reduce the threat during the wind event Saturday. They have also been working on the southeast side near Grand Lake to tie in gaps in the firelines.

Incident Commander Noel Livingston said Saturday morning that the north side could be very active during the strong winds, but there is no threat to structures in that area.

The portion of the fire east of the Divide is designated as the Thompson Zone and is being managed by resources on the Cameron Peak Fire about 12 air miles to the northwest. A relief Incident Management Team has been ordered for that Zone, California IMT 4 led by Jay Kurth.

East Troublesome Fire grows to 170,000 acres

Becomes the second largest fire in Colorado’s history

Updated October 23, 2020   |   7:54 a.m. MDT

In a briefing Thursday evening the Incident Commander of the Type 1 Incident Management Team, Noel Livingston, said the 50,000 acres of additional growth of the East Troublesome Fire brought the size up to 170,000 acres.

He  confirmed that a spot fire crossed the Continental Divide and became established on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park on the northwest side of Mt. Wuh. The spot fire stopped spreading when the temperature dropped to 30 degrees and the relative humidity increased to 89 percent as moisture came in from the east with a change in wind direction. The limited mapping that was done around and through clouds Thursday night showed that it had burned about 1,400 acres. Firefighting resources from the Cameron Fire to the north are assisting with this spot fire which is about 7 miles west of Estes Park.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the East Troublesome Fire, including the most recent, click here.

Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin, who called the fire the “worst of the worst,” said Thursday morning there was “lots of structure loss,” but didn’t have details on how many had burned.

You can zoom in on the map above. The red line is the approximate perimeter of the East Troublesome Fire at 8:30 p.m. MDT October 22, 2020. However clouds over most of the fire partially blocked the view from the fixed wing aircraft that was mapping the fire. The white line was the perimeter at 12:30 a.m. MDT October 22, 2020. The red shaded areas represent intense heat, some of which is shown outside the perimeter line where clouds made it difficult to determine the perimeter.


Updated October 22, 2020   |   6:30 p.m. MDT

East Troublesome Fire map
East Troublesome Fire 2 p.m. MDT Oct. 22, 2020.

After reports of the East Troublesome Fire crossing the Continental Divide into the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park causing the evacuation of much of Estes Park, the community caught a break, however temporary it may be.

Paul Werth, Fire Weather Meteorologist, explained it in a comment below this article:

Good news for Estes Park! The first in a series of cold fronts has moved into the Estes Park area. Within the past few hours, the temperature at the Estes Park RAWS(NPS) has dropped to 30 degrees and the RH has jumped to 89%. The winds have also shifted from the SW gusting to 30 mph to an easterly direction of 10 mph or less. Weather stations a few miles to the west of Estes Park (elevation 8900 ft msl) also show cold temperatures and high RH with easterly winds. The high RH should moisten the 1 and 10-hr fuels to significantly diminish the threat of the fire moving into Estes Park.

The satellite overflight at 2 p.m. Thursday did not detect any large heat sources east of the Continental Divide. This could be due to low clouds  which blocked detection by the satellite’s sensors. Park employees were heard on the radio Thursday talking about smoke that was mixed with fog, and the GOES 16 satellite showed what appeared to be low clouds or fog east of the Divide, while smoke from the main fire to the west was blowing to the east over the clouds.

Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park
View from the Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park at 5:18 p.m. MDT Oct. 22, 2020.

While there is a reduction in the fire activity east of the Divide, the rest of the fire was still active at 2 p.m. Thursday. In the Grand Lake area the wind shifted from coming out of the southwest, to coming from the south and south-southeast from 1 p.m. until 9 a.m. This allowed the activity on the north side to increase. As of 2 p.m. the fire had pushed to the north for about three miles to Parkview Mountain west of Highway 125. (see the map above)

The more moderate conditions in the Estes Park area are expected to last until Friday evening. There is even a 56 percent chance of precipitation in the area Thursday night. It could be back to the races again after 11 p.m. Friday with strong 17 mph winds out of the west gusting to 28 on Saturday, with the humidity in the 20s. Rain changing to snow is expected beginning Saturday evening.

West of the Continental Divide the winds will be moderate until picking up Friday afternoon, then becoming stronger Saturday — 20 mph out of the west gusting above 30 with the humidity in the 20s.


Updated October 22, 2020   |   2:44 p.m MDT

map east side of the East Troublesome Fire
3-D map showing the east side of the East Troublesome Fire with the spread across the Continental Divide. Looking northwest.
East Troublesome Fire satellite photo
The East Troublesome Fire as seen by the GOES 16 satellite at 2:26 p.m. MDT Oct. 22, 2020. Detections of heat have been enhanced.

Updated October 22, 2020   |   1:06 p.m. MDT

There are unofficial reports from individuals monitoring radio traffic that the East Troublesome Fire running to the east has jumped across the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is 10,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level. Two of the locations that reportedly have fire is Bear Lake seven miles southwest of the town of Estes Park, and Forest Canyon which is west of Moraine Park.

Map East Troublesome Fire
Map of the east side of the East Troublesome Fire indicating the direction of spread. The red line was the perimeter observed during a mapping flight at 12:30 a.m. MDT Oct. 22, 2020.

Mandatory evacuation has been ordered for parts of Estes Park with the following boundaries: north border of Fall River Road, south border of Highway 36, west border of Elm Road, and the east border of Wonderview. The Larimer County webpage with information about the Cameron Peak Fire now has evacuation updates, including a map, for the east side of the East Troublesome Fire.

Grandby is not under a mandatory evacuation order, as of 1 p.m. Thursday.

Rocky Mountain National Park is closed.

We will update this article as more information is available.


Updated October 22, 2020   |   8:03 a.m. MDT

Map of the East Troublesome Fire
Map of the East Troublesome Fire at 12:30 a.m. MDT Oct. 22, 2020.

The East Troublesome Fire in Colorado grew six times larger Wednesday night. In a 28-hour period, from 8:55 p.m. October 20 to 12:30 a.m. October 22, it spread 19 miles increasing from 19,000 acres to 125,602 acres. (see the map above, and also the one below)

A mapping flight showed that it spread east across Highway 125, continued for 12 miles to Highway 34, and was last mapped 6 miles further east at the 12,000-foot mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park. At 12:30 a.m. Thursday it was about 10 miles west-southwest of Estes Park. The fire may have difficulty crossing the Continental Divide to get much closer to the town.

The community of Grand Lake on Highway 34 was impacted as well as areas west of Shadow Mountain Lake.

On the map below, you can zoom in and out.

When the fire was mapped Wednesday night the south side of the fire had not crossed Highway 40, remaining about one mile to the north. Overnight firefighters conducted a burning operation north of the highway, which was closed in the area at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

Evacuation orders and pre-evacuation notices are in effect.  Current evacuation information can be found at gcemergency.com, and at the Facebook page of the Grand County Sheriff’s Department.

The weather forecast indicates the fire could continue rapid growth until snow begins Saturday evening. Strong winds out of the west-southwest and west are predicted gusting to 37 mph Thursday, 22 Friday, and 39 on Saturday along with relative humidities in the 20s.

East Troublesome Fire spreads east across Highway 125

Size estimated at 30,000 acres

Updated October 21, 2020   |   9:26 p.m. MDT

East Troublesome Fire map
East Troublesome Fire at 6:50 p.m. MDT October 21, 2020.

The East Troublesome Fire made a big push to the east Wednesday afternoon and crossed Highway 125 at Cabin Creek (County Road 21) reaching a point just south of Little Gravel Mountain. It also crossed  northwest of Willow Creek Reservoir. The incident management team estimated Wednesday evening it had grown to almost 30,400 acres, an increase of 11,000 acres from Tuesday night’s mapping flight.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the East Troublesome Fire, including the most recent, click here.

Additional evacuations have been ordered. At 4:15 p.m. the Sheriff issued an evacuation notice for Area E; east of Highway 125 from milepost 5 to Highway 40. Highway 40 is open. Highway 125 remains closed.

More information about evacuations.

When the fire spotted across Highway 125 there was nothing firefighters could do to contain it at that location. The smoke from the main fire made it impossible for aircraft to work in the area and the fire behavior was too extreme for firefighters to work safely on the ground.

Aircraft on the southeast portion of the fire had to be shut down in the afternoon due to very strong winds.

Wednesday afternoon a weather station west of the fire recorded sustained 26 mph winds out of the west-southwest gusting at 32 to 40 mph with relative humidity of 11 percent. The Wednesday night forecast for the fire east of highway 125 calls for west-southwest winds of 16 gusting to 25 continuing into Thursday. The wind will decrease substantially Thursday night then increase again on Friday.

Five to seven inches of snow is expected beginning Saturday evening.

East Troublesome Fire
East Troublesome Fire at 4:56 p.m. MDT Oct. 21, 2020. As seen from Kremmling.

Updated October 21, 2020   |   8:33 a.m. MDT

retardant drop on the East Troublesome Fire
A BAe-146 air tanker makes a retardant drop on the East Troublesome Fire. Photo by Cassie Goldgehn.

The East Troublesome Fire 11 miles northeast of Kremmling, Colorado was mapped Tuesday night as having grown to within about 2 miles of Highway 40 on the southeast side and approximately 1/2 mile from Highway 125 on the east side.

The mapping flight Tuesday night estimated the fire had burned about 19,000 acres.

Evacuation orders and pre-evacuation notices are in effect.  Current evacuation information can be found at gcemergency.com. Colorado Department of Transportation has closed Highway 125 north of Granby from milepost 5 to 27.


October 20, 2020 | 3:30 p.m. MDT

East Troublesome Fire
East Troublesome Fire Oct. 18, 2020. Inciweb.

Mostly sunny skies will dominate Tuesday on the East Troublesome fire 43 miles west of Boulder, Colorado. Low relative humidity indices and warm temperatures are producing near red flag conditions. Winds from the southwest will transition to the northwest in the afternoon at 15-20 mph with gusts to 30 mph.

Poor humidity recovery and strong winds continued to push the fire to the north and east to the Ethel Creek and East Troublesome Creek drainages Monday night. The fire is estimated at 15,546 acres with 293 personnel currently assigned.

On Tuesday aircraft will continue water and retardant drops on active areas in the north and southeast parts of the fire. Helicopters will engage in bucket work on the eastern side of the active fire front near Kinney Creek, Sawmill Creek, and the Highway 125 corridor protecting values at risk. A helibase is being established in Kremmling to support air operations.

Ground crews are tying lines together on the north side of the fire. Some resources have shifted to the southeast section of the fire to assist in containing spot fires and increasing structure protection efforts. A second structure protection group has been created specifically to install hose lays and sprinklers around structures along the Highway 125 and Highway 40 corridors. Crews are working to reinforce fire lines around Grouse Mountain using multiple strategies which could include tactical firing operations as conditions allow.

(The above is adapted from an update by the incident management team October 20, 2020.)

The fire is 11 air miles northeast of Kremmling. On Monday night it was active on the north and east sides, but was most active on the southeast side 4 miles north of Hot Sulphur Springs. It was about a mile west of Highway 125.

Fires are usually named after a nearby landmark. In this case it was East Troublesome Creek.