Colorado residents are revealing how the fled for their lives as a raging wildfire tore toward their homes on Wednesday night.
Jimmy Negri, who hails from the small town of Grand Lake, ran from his property after picking up his elderly mother as the East Troublesome Fire exploded in size.
By nightfall, the fire had torched around 24,000 acres of land. By Thursday morning, more than 125,000 acres had been burnt through. It is now the fourth-largest fire in Colorado’s history.
Negri was one of 400 Grand Lake residents who were ordered to evacuate their homes at the last minute as conditions worsened and the fire expanded in size.
‘In the morning [Wednesday], the fire was 14 miles away from us according to Google Earth, the wind wasn’t a factor,’ Negri told 9NEWS, where he previously worked as a TV news pilot.
‘Then at a quarter to seven we got a call saying, “Get out now.”’
A Colorado helicopter pilot is lucky to be alive after fleeing from the raging East Troublesome Fire which tore toward his home in Grand Lake on Wednesday night. The fire exploded in size, torching 100,000 acres. The blaze is seen encroaching on the town after sundown
A resident of nearby Granby, Colorado snapped this image of the fire on Wednesday evening as it started to expand in size
The blaze exploded after nightfall torching thousands of acres every hour
By Thursday morning, more than 125,000 acres had been torched by the East Troublesome Fire. It is now the fourth-largest fire in Colorado’s history
Negri quickly grabbed a bag of his possessions and drove to pick up his 94-year-old mother who lives close by.
‘As we were driving out, the fire was right next to the road,’ Negri explained.
He does not yet know whether their homes have burned down. Negri has lived at his property since 1977, and believes it has now been reduced to ash.
Negri has flown over hundreds of wildfires during his career as a TV news pilot, but says he is hard-pressed to remember a blaze which moved as quickly and as ferociously across the landscape.
Firefighters are struggling to contain the blaze as it roars across dry terrain
Billowing smoke from the East Troublesome Fire is seen from Highway 34 on Thursday
Stunned residents watched on Thursday on the blaze roars towards several other towns surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park
Wam temperatures and drought have created perilous conditions for the 2000 wildfire season, which is stretching into late October
A Colorado Department of Transportation worker staffs a roadblock as smoke rises from the fire on Thursday
The East Troublesome Fire has forced the closure of nearby Rocky Mountain National Park – but scientists say wildfires are unusual for Colorado this late into the year.
‘Normally, snow helps tamp down the devastation by this time of year, but drought across Colorado and warming temperatures have dragged out the season, fire scientist Jennifer Balch said.
‘We don’t see October fires that get this large,’ she told The Associated Press.
The East Troublesome Fire is seen encroaching on property on Wednesday. Conditions rapidly deteriorated by nightfall and the blaze burnt through 100,000 acres of land
By Thursday morning, it was estimated the fire had reached over 120,000 acres in size
Plumes of smoke from the East Troublesome Fire are pictured Thursday. There are fears it could merge with another fire to create a catastrophic mega-blaze
The East Troublesome Fire began on October 14, just north of Hot Sulphur Springs. The cause of the fire remains unknown at this time.
Only 10 percent contained as of Wednesday, the heavy smoke and winds forced the grounding of planes and air tankers that were battling the blaze.
Firefighters’ worst fears were realized overnight, as the fire than expanded at an extraordinary rate.
However, the East Troublesome fire from the only blaze firefighters are combating in Colorado right now.
The Cameron Peak Fire, northeast of the East Troublesome Fire, is the largest in Colorado’s history, now having burned at least 206,000 acres; it was 55 percent contained as of Wednesday.
There are fears the that wildfire could merge with the East Troublesome Fire and create a catastrophic mega-blaze.
More than 700 square miles of land has burned in Colorado at a cost of more than $215 million – with the numbers still rising, according to Larry Helmerick, fire information coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center.
If estimates are correct, the East Troublesome Fire is now the fourth-largest in state history