DENVER (AP) — Wildfire damage assessment was expected to begin Monday for the towns and cities affected by Colorado's second-largest recorded wildfire which caused evacuations and closed Rocky Mountain National Park.
Weekend snow and cold weather has tamed the fire’s growth and will help crews on the ground for the next several days, but it will not put the fire out, said Noel Livingston, incident commander of the East Troublesome Fire.
Livingston said they have good containment on the western edge of the fire so their focus is on the eastern part where evacuations are still in place and assessment teams made up of the sheriff’s office and fire crews are headed to see if it's safe enough to return.
“Our primary focus today and in the coming days is to get people back in their homes,” Livingston said Monday.
The East Troublesome Fire has destroyed around 301 square miles (780 square kilometers) — an area nearly the size of New York City and was 15% contained on Monday.
The blaze has forced thousands of people to evacuate in northern Colorado and burned part of Rocky Mountain National Park, but the full extent of the damages are not yet known.
Sheriff Brett Schroetlin has previously said there was “lots of structural loss” because of the fire. On Sunday he declined to provide an estimate of the number of homes lost but said he was working to notify residents about the fate of their homes. He said the town of Grand Lake, which was evacuated last week after the fire exploded in size, was not damaged. He also said no one is unaccounted for in the area burned by the fire.
Jered Kramer, public information officer for Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, said they expect the damages to be “significant particularly compared to what had previously been destroyed."
The September damage assessment from the Cameron Peak fire — the largest in state history — found 99 structures destroyed, 34 of which were homes. The fire in Cameron Peak has taken over 326 square miles (844 square kilometers) and is ongoing with 64% of it contained.
Gov. Jared Polis said Friday that the East Troublesome Fire was likely caused by human activity.