(CBS4) - The East Troublesome Fire had another "very active day" on Thursday, with growth in the wildfire's northern, eastern and southern flanks. The burn area now includes a portion of Rocky Mountain National Park, including a spot fire on the eastern side of the Continental Divide.
The fire has burned 188,000 acres and there are 4,032 evacuations in place in Grand County and 15,500 in the Estes Park area.
Wildfire incident commander Noel Livingston said the northern portion of the fire burned northwards almost to the Grand County line. In the process, it tore through forests with heavy beetle-kill trees and put up big columns of smoke that were visible from the south. The major growth of the massive, fire, though has been to the east, including the activity in the national park.
"That fire established itself well on Wuh Mountain yesterday," said the fire manager in a Friday morning briefing, referring to the spot fire that has wildfire managers very concerned. "It got about a mile fire head on it and was actively spreading downslope toward Estes Park. The result of that were the evacuation levels that went into place in Estes Park."
The cold front that came through on Thursday on Colorado's Front Range actually slowed the progress of the spot fire, though.
"It resulted in a significant drop in temperatures, humidities coming way up and the result was the fire dropped down to the ground and really checked itself up and really did not move down into the community yesterday afternoon," Livingston said.
Weather conditions in the park to the west of Estes Park remain favorable on Friday, but fire danger could worsen on Saturday. Residences to the west of Estes Park remain under mandatory evacuation orders and Rocky Mountain National Park remains closed to visitors.
Evacuations are also in place along the south and southeastern flank of the fire in Grand County, including Grand Lake and part of Granby. Firefighters were actively building fire lines and battling the blaze there on Friday morning. An unknown number of homes have been lost due to the fire, particularly in the area outside the town of Grand Lake, and at least two people are known to have been killed.
The only area where the fire is contained in the southwestern flank, and crews are working to expand that fire line to the east to "prevent the fire from crossing Highway 40 or threatening Hot Sulphur Springs."
With the destruction caused by the fire still mostly unknown, and many areas where the damage is too unsafe to enter, authorities are encouraging evacuees to be patient as they try to learn about the fate of homes and businesses.
"The fire is close houses, the fire is close to our roadways, I really want to make that message really as the primary message to our community is that we're not withholding information, we're not trying to delay information getting out there. We don't know," Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said.
The following road closures are in place due to the fire:
- CO 125 closed in both directions from Granby to Rand (Mile marker 0-31 as of 2pm)
- US 34 is closed in both directions between Granby and into Rocky Mountain National Park
- US 34 closed westbound between Dam Store (MM 83) - Estes Park (approx. MM 63) due to Estes Park evacuation order. Eastbound remains open.
On Friday afternoon officials reopened Highway 40 between Hot Sulphur Springs and Granby. That stretch of the highway had to be closed earlier this week due to the firefight.
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