At least five people are missing from a raging wildfire burning in the Colorado mountains called one of the “worst wildfires” in the state’s history as officials fear that the blaze could merge with an even larger fire burning a short distance away.
The East Troublesome Fire near Grimes Peak on the Arapaho National Forest had already burned more than 200 square miles in about 24 hours in the northern Colorado mountains, and moving within 10 miles of an even larger blaze, the Cameron Peak Fire, CBS News reported.
Noel Livingston, fire incident commander for Pacific Northwest Team 3, said the type of growth the fire is experiencing is "really unheard of for a fire in this part of the world, in timber," reported CNN.
“The cold front passage throughout the afternoon had pushed the fire right into the areas of most concern, said Livingston, who has ordered in for additional resources to fight the fire.
High winds and dead, dry timber are causing the blaze to strengthen, and Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin described the fires as the “the worst of the worst of the worst.”
Nearly 300 firefighters were battling the flames in densely wooded hills and, Schroetlin said firefighters would have to replace deputies as the situation worsened.
"We have to allow these firefighters to get in there. There is so much smoke and active fire in that area right now, I can't put deputies in there," he told the news outlet.
Firefighters were unable to survey the damage but, police deputies spent part of Thursday traveling from house to house warning people to get out, as plumes of smoke rose thousands of feet in the air. It was not immediately clear how much damage the fire caused in the Grand Lake community.
Mayor Steve Kudron who called many of the historic buildings, businesses, and establishments the “heart and soul,” of their community, was sharing information with the community and those affected as details came in. At the time of the briefing, there was no confirmed information to report.
Matthew Reed of Grand Lake told the news station that his home was completely destroyed.
“We lived in our house for 11 months,” said Reed, who was visibly choked up as he told the news outlet. “It took three years to build and now it's gone.”
Ranchers Kelly Carnan and Vince Baker in Grandby whose ranch has been in their family for over 100 years tried to remain hopeful but were worried that they may have to leave their 300 livestock behind as the fire approached their home.
“It's pretty much everything we got, right here,” said Baker. “I'm pretty much planning on being here until the flames are pushing me out of the driveway if that's what it comes to.”
As hundreds continued to evacuate, families who already fled the fires watched their homes go up in flames that were visible on their home security cameras.
Katy Brown had no idea if she had a home to go back to or not, and once she opened the home security app, she described what she saw as “gut-wrenching.”
“I saw fire coming up our driveway and up the hillside," Brown told CNN affiliate KUSA. "It was horrific, absolutely horrific to watch. I've never experienced anything like that before.
One resident who was told her home had been swallowed up by the blaze said she was numb when she heard the news.
"You've been told that it's gone but you don't want to believe it. So until you see the ashes you just survive," she told KUSA.
The fire also spread into the western portion of Rocky Mountain National Park, according to multiple reports.
Livingston said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The blaze is the second-largest wildfire in Colorado on record.