Cameron Peak Fire at 97% containment; East Troublesome Fire reaches full containment

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The two largest wildfires in Colorado history that combined burned more than 400,000 acres are all but out.

The East Troublesome Fire reached 100% containment Monday. The Cameron Peak Fire reached 97% containment Wednesday, according to the fire incident team.

That effectively ends the state’s largest wildfire season, recorded at more than 650,000 acres.

Stage 2 fire restrictions on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests were lifted Wednesday, according to a forest service news release, though closures around existing fires remain in place.

The Cameron Peak Fire incident management team said Wednesday that containment increased 3% from the day before.

The remaining area not contained is a small dry pond, or fen, that continues to smolder several feet below the ground in a remote area just northwest of the Colorado State University Mountain Campus. Forest resource specialists have determined that attempting to extinguish the ground fire would do more damage than letting it burn itself out. It is expected to smolder for several days or weeks and will be monitored. No other sources of heat were detected on the fire.

The 208,913-acre Cameron Peak Fire has 216 personnel working the fire and removing hazardous timber in the northwest area of the fire that has cost nearly $134 million to fight. The fire started Aug. 13 in the Roosevelt National Forest between Cameron Peak and the Chambers Lake Campground.

The fire destroyed 461 structures — 224 residential structures, including 42 primary residences, 220 outbuildings and 17 business structures associated with the Shambhala Mountain Center north of Rustic. Four residential structures and four outbuildings were damaged.

Cameron Peak Fire aftermath: Misery and memories

Several minor injuries to firefighters occurred during the fire, mostly from heat exhaustion. At least 43 firefighters tested positive for COVID-19.

There were no deaths attributed the fire. 

The 193,812-acre East Troublesome Fire started Oct. 14. Fire officials believe it started northeast of Kremmling in the Arapaho National Forest. The peak fire spread of 87,093 acres occurred between late afternoon on Oct. 21 and the early afternoon of Oct. 22. The size of the fire exploded from 18,550 acres to 187,964 acres during that time.

It spread eastward into Rocky Mountain National Park on Oct. 22, crossing the Continental Divide and reaching the western edge of Estes Park on Oct. 23. That is when many of the estimated 366 residential structures and 214 secondary structures were destroyed, mostly in Grand County.

Two people died in the fire after they refused to leave their home.

Both fires were largely suppressed after an Oct. 24-25 snowstorm dumped a foot of snow on the fires. Both fires remain under investigation, though fire officials suspect the Cameron Peak Fire was human caused.

The 176,878-acre Mullen Fire that started Sept. 17 in southern Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest 38 miles west of Laramie is 97% contained. It crossed into Colorado north of Walden on Sept. 30, where it burned about 20,000 acres.  

Colorado’s largest wildfires

1. 2020, Cameron Peak: 208,913 acres

2. 2020, East Troublesome: 193,812

3. 2020, Pine Gulch: 139,007

4. 2002, Hayman: 137,760

5. 2018, Spring Creek: 108,045 acres

6. 2012, High Park: 87,284 acres

7. 2002, Missionary Ridge: 70,485 acres

8. 2018, 416 Fire: 52,778 acres

9. 2008, Bridger: 46,612 acres

10. 2012, Last Chance: 44,000 acres

Source: Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center and Colorado State Forest Service

Reporter Miles Blumhardt looks for stories that impact your life. Be it news, outdoors, sports — you name it, he wants to report it. Have a story idea? Contact him at milesblumhardt@coloradoan.com or on Twitter @MilesBlumhardt. Support his work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.