Family believes Grand Lake couple died in East Troublesome Fire
The East Troublesome Fire has more than 725 personnel working the blaze, more than double the number from the day before, with the fire raging dangerously close to Grand Lake and Granby.
On Thursday, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin wouldn’t comment on reports a missing couple from Grand Lake died in the fire.
The family of Lyle and Marilyn Hileman wrote on social media that the couple didn’t survive as they posted: “Your family loves you and misses you, and will go forward with the love, dedication, kindness, and strength you taught to us.”
The family said on Twitter the sheriff’s office had confirmed that Lyle and Marilyn Hileman’s home was destroyed and many condolences came in response, but Schroetlin would only say during Friday’s fire update that a small number of people remain missing.
“We’re working with some family members on some missing subjects, but we’re not able to confirm any information at this time,” the sheriff said to questions about the Hilemans.
On Thursday, 300 personnel were working the blaze, which has burned more than 170,000 acres after blowing up and torching more than 100,000 acres Wednesday.
Fire manager Noel Livingston said Friday that the East Troublesome Fire is the top priority in the state, and he has had no trouble securing additional resources to support the firefighting effort.
“A lot of resources came in the night before last, a lot came throughout the day yesterday and we’re anticipating additional resources coming in today,” Livingston said as he explained the team is also managing the Williams Fork Fire and 725 of the 730 firefighters currently assigned to the team are working on the Troublesome blaze.
The fire is being handled by a Type 1 management team, but one zone of the fire — where it jumped the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park and threatened Estes Park — is being handled by the team battling the Cameron Peak Fire, which has better access to the far eastern portion of the Eastern Toublesome Fire.
Updated acreage figures were expected later Thursday, and while there’s some good news to report, the fire remains active on the eastern, northern and southern fronts, and the towns in its crosshairs are some of the biggest concerns.
So far, there have been no official reports of damage from the sheriff’s office or county officials, either.
Grand Lake Fire Chief Kevin Ratzmann wrote on Facebook on Friday that three of his firefighters “lost everything” in the blaze, and the Sky-Hi News knows of other locals whose homes were also destroyed.
According to Grand Lake town officials, no structures inside the town had burned by 6 p.m. Thursday, but many of the surrounding neighborhoods suffered extensive damage.
However, there’s been no word yet from the county about how widespread the damage is or which neighborhoods were the hardest hit.
During Friday’s update, Grand County Manager Kate McIntire said she feels for the affected homeowners because she too had to be evacuated from her home and doesn’t yet know if it survived.
“I really want to make that message, really as a primary message to our community, that we’re not withholding information, we’re not trying to delay information from getting out there, we don’t know,” Schroetlin said of the damage.
He said the sheriff’s office and county would release damage assessments as soon as they can, but he didn’t seem to have a timeline for how long that might take with crews still focused on preserving life and structures.
Firefighting efforts continue Thursday with Granby under pre-evacuation orders. It has been misreported by Denver media that the town was put under an evacuation order. Schroetlin said there have been some areas outside of Granby that were evacuated but emphasized that the town is not under evacuation orders.
“Obviously, if someone chooses to leave, that’s their choice and in their best interest, but right now we’re getting a lot of rumor mills floating around out there about the actual status of the town of Granby,” Schroetlin said.
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When the East Troublesome Fire blew up on Grand County, it blew up on all of us.