The East Troublesome Fire was first reported two months ago today in the Arapahoe National Forest northeast of the town of Kremmling in Grand County, CO, my home county. A week later the fire grew at a rate not commonly seen; the fire spread from 18,000 acres to 187,000 in 24 hours. The town of Grand Lake, which is near and dear to my heart, was in danger. Hundreds of homes were in the path of a fire that roared through a forest of beetle-kill. People quite literally fled for their lives, grabbing everything that they could in a matter of minutes.
From Granby, I watched flames lick over the top of the hillside northwest of my home. I’ll be forever thankful that my home wasn’t in the direct path unlike many people that I know. That’s the thing about small communities, you know a lot of people, so when something tragic, like a fire, happens, the list of friends, co-workers and former classmates runs through your head along with worries about if they got out safely or if their home is still standing. The unknown was unsettling but nothing compared to what those directly in the path were feeling.
I can’t equate what I went through in any way, on any level, with what others went through. I had people I went to high school with watch their home and business burn on a newscast. Other former classmates got notification later that their childhood homes were gone. Our Grand Fire Protection District assistant fire chief lost her home. Coworkers spent days waiting to hear the fate of their homes, hoping that rumors of completely leveled neighborhoods were truly just rumors.
Mother Nature, though she fueled the fire’s growth with near 100 mile an hour winds, came through with a snowstorm three days later on October 24th that helped the exhausted firefighters and slowed further spread. The fire had already crept into Rocky Mountain National Park and peaked over the Continental Divide but the threat had lessened to almost nothing.
The following days were long for most, waiting for the status of their homes. My family-friends/part-time boss’s home was one we didn’t know about. Their property’s northern end shares a border with RMNP and the news from neighbors was that nothing survived. When they were finally able to enter their neighborhood during a designated time set by officials, they were relieved to find the home they built themselves was still standing. Unfortunately, stories like those weren’t as common. An initial estimate of the destruction was 366 residences and 214 outbuildings and commercial structures.
Downtown Grand Lake still stands, the historic Grand Lake Lodge remains perched above the town and Rocky Mountain National Park has recently re-opened. Without the tireless hard work of our local first responders and the teams that came from all over, who knows what else we could have lost. Now the rebuilding begins. And for most, it will be with the help of the Grand County community.
When the evacuation orders were issued and residents were told they needed to get out, and get out now, our community took action. People began to offer their aid with evacuating livestock, opened their homes and began planning for whatever could have been next. When it became apparent that the fire growth was expansive and rumors of massive structure loss began to trickle into other parts of the county, our community stepped up in an even bigger way. Different entities within Grand County began collecting donations of clothing, essentials and food for those who were displaced. The Grand Foundation started the Grand County Wildfire Fund for those who had lost everything. The generosity and support of our community was amazing to witness day after day. It made me cry on more than one occasion.
Though many are now without a home, they have the support to rebuild again. Though tragedies shake communities, it’s up to that community to remain strong and my county is #GrandCountyStrong.
For financial donations visit The Grand Foundation website linked here.
– InciWeb developed and maintained by USDA Forest Service, F. (2020, December 10). East Troublesome Fire. Retrieved December 15, 2020, from https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7242/