Black Hawk Casino Offers Shelter To CO Wildfire Evacuees

Written By Ian St. Clair on 10/23/2020

In a time of dire desperation, the Isle Casino Hotel is stepping up.

The casino in Black Hawk and Gilpin County is serving as an evacuee center for residents of neighboring Grand County. Thousands of people from Granby to Estes Park have been forced to leave their homes due to the East Troublesome fire.

Two largest wildfires in Colorado history currently burning

According to The Denver Post, the fire in Grand County has burned 170,163 acres, or nearly 266 square miles. The Post adds that as of Friday morning, the fire is only 5% contained.

As of now, the East Troublesome Fire is the second-largest fire in Colorado history.

The fire exploded by 45,000 acres on Thursday and is closing in on Estes Park to the northwest and Grandy to the southeast.

If that wasn’t enough, the largest wildfire in Colorado history is also currently burning.

The Cameron Peak fire has burned 206,977 acres, or about 323 square miles, in Larimer County. As of Friday morning, the fire is 57% contained.

The fire, located to the north of Estes Park, is also closing in on the popular mountain town home to the famous Stanley Hotel.

That’s not all of the fires in Colorado.

There is also the CalWood fire northwest of Boulder. As of Friday morning, the evacuation orders for CalWood have been lifted. The fire has burned 10,073 acres, or almost 16 square miles, according to The Post. It is now 55% contained. The Lefthand Canyon fire is 100% contained and the evacuation order has been lifted there as well.

Growth of East Troublesome fire ‘unheard of’

Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin told the media on Thursday that the growth of the East Troublesome fire caught everyone off guard.

Schroetlin said:

“The growth that you see on this fire is unheard of. One hundred thousand acres … never expected. You plan for the worst, this is the worst of the worst of the worst.”

It’s that growth that forced the county to issue mandatory evacuations.

As Granby resident Christy Potter told CBS4, crying:

“We live right here at the edge of Granby, so it’s time to go. I’ve lived in Grand County almost my whole life and it’s just … really hard.”

Isle Casino serves as evacuation center

This is where the Isle Casino enters the equation.

The Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office tweeted on Thursday that anyone who has been forced to evacuate from the fires in Colorado can go to the casino.

As of Friday morning, there are 58 people housed at the Isle.

The casino has made 159 rooms available to evacuees.

The Red Cross of Colorado is at the casino and staffed with volunteers to help screen and check people in.

As for how the Isle Casino came to become an evacuee center, Cherokee Blake told PlayColorado that it came from the Boulder Office of Emergency Management and the local animal response team.

Blake is the Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer.

As she said:

“Of course there’s always a level of stress in this. It can get quite chaotic when you’re trying to corral this and get control of the situation. More than anything, we are feeling very blessed that we can help support our surrounding counties. We would hope that other people would do the same thing for us in the same situation. We just count it as a blessing to help out.”

Other Gilpin County casinos ready to help

If the Isle Casino hits the 159-room capacity, there are other casinos in Gilpin County that have volunteered to help.

Though as Blake said, they have not had to utilize them at this point. But the fact other casinos in Colorado have offered to step up if needed is huge.

As Gilpin County Commissioner Gail Watson said to PlayColorado:

“We’re really thrilled that the Isle has stepped up and that we’re able to offer help to our neighboring counties. We all rely on each other in crisis. So we’re very happy to see the casinos step up.”

How Coloradans can help

As for how you can help, here is what Blake suggested:

“We have a volunteer hotline setup. If they want to call and ask to volunteer. That number is 303-515-4335. If people are needing help with their animals, we’re taking large and small animals. We have plenty of capacity at this point. That number is 303-515-4342.”

Of course what would help the most is a major dumpage of snow this weekend.

According to Blake:

“We’re getting some weather now, but not enough snow. And usually we’re saying the other way ‘Stop the snow.’ But right now we want it. It’s a horrible situation.”

Photo by AP / David Zalubowski
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Written by
Ian St. Clair

Ian is an award-winning sports journalist and a University of Northern Colorado graduate. He’s a Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. He broke into the gambling industry right as Colorado launched legal sports betting in 2020. Ian now manages the sites for some of the biggest gambling markets in North America and is an analyst for PlayColorado.

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