East Troublesome Fire documentary in the works
Grand natives want to tell local story that made US news
As a sparsely-populated, mostly rural area, Grand County is rarely in the national spotlight, but when the East Troublesome Fire raced across 120,000 acres in one night, the county made headlines across the country.
Grand County natives Connor Nelson and Parks Thomson are now working to document one of the fastest growing fires ever in Colorado, if not America, with a focus on the local perspective and experience. As locals who personally know many people impacted, the duo believes they can tell the story better than any outsider.
“I live in Chicago now, but the night it blew up, I immediately got a car and drove out here listening to the scanners,” Nelson said. “We knew that we wanted to cover this from a home-based perspective before L.A. comes in.”
Nelson and Thomson want to tell the story from all angles — be it a first-responder, evacuee or forest manager — and they plan to use first-hand footage to capture the raw emotion of a fire that killed two people and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses.
The smoke-filled skies, fiery ridges and panicked evacuations of Oct. 21 are ingrained in local memory, but for people who weren’t there, it can be hard to understand the gravity of the event.
“Beyond the stories (of how people lost their homes), we also tell their everyday lives and who they are as a person,” Thomson said.
Filming began shortly after the fire areas were cleared with Nelson roaming the Colorado Highway 125 and US Highway 34 corridors to get around 10 terabytes of footage.
Aside from capturing the experiences of locals, the film will include interviews with forest managers and scientists to discuss contributing factors to the fire and mitigation efforts that could prevent disasters in the future.
The next step in the process is professional editing for audio and video. Thomson and Nelson are accepting contributions to finish up the project.
The unofficial documentary trailer drew interest from Netflix and FOX, so Thomson and Nelson are confident their final product will find a nice home. Nelson said he would like to see it released in summer 2022.
“We’re working on making the trailer official as fast as possible,” Thomson said.
Nelson and Thomson are working with the Grand Foundation with the goal of using the documentary to encourage donations for recovery efforts. Ultimately, Nelson said he wants the film to advance discussions about the future of wildfires and how to address them.
“As (a local expert) says in the film, wildfires are a matter of when not if,” Nelson said. “We want the documentary to lead the conversation in what Colorado needs to do next to help prevent or slow these megafires. This is going to happen more and more frequently all over Colorado.”
He and Thomson said that locals can submit video that could be used in the film or contribute to the Troublesome Documentary by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Grand County Sheriff’s Office fielded 256 calls from July 25-31 while dispatchers answered 570 calls for all first-responder agencies in the county.