Shereff said an elderly couple took over their home next to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park and confirmed to be dead in a wildfire.
The bodies of 86-year-old and 84-year-old Lily and Marilyn Hillman were recovered Friday, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said in a video statement.
The couple said the family married at an early age, celebrated a honeymoon in the area in 1952, and then bought property outside Grand Lake, refusing to move out on Wednesday evening as more than 100,000 acres of pre-crisis fire.
The rapid rise of the fire prompted immediate evacuation warnings for the entire city of Grand Lake and other communities.
Schroetlin called it “a catastrophic event in our small community” that affected other subdivisions and national parks in Grand Grand, North Grand County.
Shortlin said there is no other missing person in the fire. Damage assessment continues.
Emergency responders helping with evacuation efforts were met with a fire front that forced many from the area, the sheriff said, and they returned several times to continue evacuation efforts.
The family spoke with their son Wednesday evening and were adamant about staying, the family said in a statement read by the sheriff. The couple considered the property to be “heaven on earth”.
Fire officials said the East Trouble Fire began October 14 north of Hot Sulfur Springs, which on Friday was 188,079 acres and contained 4 percent.
It is one of several large wild animals that have burned or are still burning in Colorado this year, including the three largest in recorded state history.
The Cameron Peak Fire, which is to the west of Fort Collins, is the largest and has burned 206,977 acres and was up 60 percent on Friday, according to the Interconnect Fire Information website. The fire broke out on 13 August.
The East Troubleshoot Fire is the second largest. The Pine Gulch Fire, which was ignited by an electric spark and burned to about 139,000 acres, was the largest, but fully contained, in recorded state history.
Schroetlin read a statement from Hillman’s family, in which he described the couple as being unstoppable that they would not leave the property.
He told his son to call his siblings and told them they were in his basement and felt safe, the family read the statement.
Merlin said he smelled smoke on the phone, the family said. The son called the siblings and tried to call his parents back, but received no response and on Thursday confirmed that the house was destroyed.
“But our family is relieved that our parents have left this world and on their own terms,” the family statement said. “They leave a legacy of hard work and determination to cross – all that Grand County will need.”
Wildfires have caused uproar across the western United States this year to burn millions of acres in California, destroy more than 9,000 homes and other structures, and kill 31 people.
In Oregon, more than one million acres have been burnt, more than 4,000 homes destroyed and nine people killed.