2 Colorado wildfires have burned nearly 700 structures

DENVER (AP) — Two wildfires that have burned more than 600 square miles in northern Colorado and forced thousands of people to flee their homes have together damaged or destroyed nearly 700 structures, officials said.

Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said at a briefing Thursday that crews were still assessing the damage caused by the East Troublesome Fire in the mountains northwest of Denver. He said at least 250 structures were burned, but he did not indicate how many of those were homes.

“That number will continue to grow as these teams continue to work through the field,” he said.

That fire has burned more than 303 square miles (785 square kilometers) since it started Oct. 14, but it hasn’t grown significantly since snow and cold weather blew in over the weekend.

Schroetlin said snow as deep as 16 inches (40 centimeters) has hampered efforts to determine how many homes were damaged or destroyed.

“Officers have had to chain up to actually get to some of these residences,” he said. “It’s a slow process moving forward.”

The town of Grand Lake, which was evacuated last week after the fire exploded in size, was not damaged. No one is unaccounted for in the area, and many residents have been allowed to go home.

Lyle and Marylin Hileman, 86 and 84, respectively, were found dead Oct. 23 after refusing to leave their home near Grand Lake. Their last known contact was a call to their son, when they calmly and adamantly said they would stay in their basement.

Gov. Jared Polis has said the fire, the second-largest in state history, was likely caused by people. It is 30% contained.

The nearby Cameron Peak Fire, the largest in Colorado history, has scorched more than 326 square miles (844 square kilometers) since it started in mid-August. At least 442 structures, including 222 cabins or homes, have been destroyed, The Fort Collins Coloradoan reported.

“This thing is still alive, and we have to pay attention to it,” Capt. Joe Shellhammer with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said of the fire, which is 64% contained.