Community comes together to winterize homes in East Troublesome fire evacuation zones

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GRAND COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — While snow could be a major help in the fight to contain the East Troublesome Fire, it is also bringing new threats to Grand County homes that are still standing.

As firefighters attack flames, community members are stepping up Sunday to save what is lost.

More than 65 contractors, plumbers and community members volunteered to go house-to-house in evacuated Grand County neighborhoods Sunday and winterize evacuated homes.

“We have a house just off 34 that actually didn’t get burned down so we feel pretty lucky,” volunteer Caleb Kelley said, adding “We felt like we should help out and save homes from actually exploding, like water and freezing over instead of a fire now.”

“The mission is as many safe houses as possible for the displaced people,” Kelley’s father Joe said, adding “We will make a difference after what’s done today.”

Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin developed the program late Saturday night to minimize potential damage due to plumbing issues in the fire evacuation. More than 1,000 evacuated residents signed up for the free service by Sunday morning. 

Sheriff’s deputies escorted groups of volunteers through the blocked-off zone to ensure safety for those winterizing as plows worked to clear snowy roadways.

“Trees could be falling, things like that, we have radio communication with our command post so our officers can pull those plumbers and contractors out in a moment’s notice,” Sheriff Schroetlin said. 

Volunteer and professional photographer John Williams captured the mission in action for FOX31, as he ensured water lines were turned off and clear as temperatures started dropping and snow started falling.

During the mission, volunteers also saw extreme damage to their communities upfront for the first time.

“It’s definitely devastating because I know how hard the community works here, the people who are actually locals here work so hard to have the houses they are in,” Kelley said. 

Utility worker Kyle Wortley sent FOX31 photos capturing electric meters melted and rows of golf carts destroyed in the Grand County zone. 

Wortley’s company Stake Center Locating came from Loveland to assist Xcel Energy and locate gas lines to complete necessary repairs to get gas back to Grand Lake. 

“Those people are working super hard out there to get their piece of the puzzle done,” Sheriff Schroetlin said, adding “It takes a little bit of everyone.”

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