Propelled by high wind and a bone-dry, fuel-rich landscape, the East Troublesome fire in Grand County exploded with devastating and unprecedented growth in the past 24 hours. The fire, which ignited on October 14, was roughly 19,000 acres late Wednesday. By Thursday evening, it was nearly 9 times that size—and now it’s burning 188,389 acres.

As the fire grew, it reached the edge of the town of Grand Lake, which was evacuated on Wednesday afternoon. It’s unclear how many structures in or around the town were lost, but early reports suggest the iconic Grand Lake Lodge is still standing and much of downtown Grand Lake was saved.

“We’re in a defensive mode trying to protect what we can,” said Rocky Mountain Area Commander Scott Jalbert at a press conference on Thursday.

The fire, only five percent contained, is moving deeper into Rocky Mountain National Park and on Thursday morning jumped the Continental Divide, moving closer to the town of Estes Park, parts of which were also ordered to evacuate. As the East Troublesome fire grows, there is increasing risk that it could connect with the Cameron Peak fire to the north, which has been burning for more than two months, has scorched more than 200,000 acres, and is only 55 percent contained.

Thursday evening will be a critical window for firefighters working to suppress the fire’s growth, as sustained winds in excess of 25 mph are expected throughout the area prompting a Red Flag Warning. Cooler weather and snow are in the forecast for the weekend, but the next 36 hours are expected to feature more extreme fire behavior.

The cause of the East Troublesome fire is still under investigation, but Mike Morgan, director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, suggested Thursday it may have been human-caused.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.