Colorado Fire: No deaths reported in raging blaze; it could be a ‘new year miracle’, says governor

DENVER – No deaths have been reported as a result of a raging and raging wildfire that has burned at least 500 homes in Boulder County, Colorado and forced about 35,000 people to flee, authorities said on Thursday. Six.

“We can hold our own New Year’s miracle if it holds that there are no casualties,” Governor Jared Polis said. One unverified person was found and several others were treated for their injuries, authorities said.

The results are all the more astounding considering how quickly the Marshall Fire spread, carried by strong historic winds across the dry land.

“In the blink of an eye,” the governor said at a news conference Friday, “many families have minutes, minutes to get whatever they can, their pets, their children, get in the car and leave.” Go.”

Yet hundreds of people have lost their homes and perhaps everything they own. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said entire precincts were burned. “West of Superior, Old Town Superior … has completely disappeared. That number easily amounts to 500 homes,” he said after he and the governor flew over the area to assess the damage.

And the number could grow, Pelle admitted. In addition to the devastation in Superior, a town about 10 miles southeast of Boulder, the sheriff said they had seen dozens of burned homes in other areas.

“I estimate it will have at least 500 houses,” Pelle said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a thousand.”

The wildfire started Thursday morning and consumed at least 1,600 acres in a matter of hours, prompting people across two communities to evacuate. About 370 homes were destroyed in a single subdivision just west of Superior, while another 210 may have been lost in Old Town Superior, the Boulder County sheriff said Thursday.

Senior Mayor Clint Folsom told CNN’s Poppy Harlow that the winds were unusual.

“We get these gusts of wind from time to time, but rarely does it actually move the ground like this is the case, and then you combine it with the fire element and then the extremely dry – extremely The drought we’ve had over the past few months “It’s just a recipe for disaster,” he said Friday.

As soon as the winds started, they subsided overnight, and the weather began to rapidly turn to the other extreme: The area ravaged by winter weather was warned for Friday, with 5 to 10 inches of snow expected to fall on Saturday, said CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford.

Fire officials do not predict the fire will develop much further. The fire’s incident commander, Michael Smith, told reporters Friday.

“This is about working around the perimeter of the houses and working our way through the process,” he said. “We’re having to change our thought process about what containment looks like in percentage terms, but I think our progress ahead will be very small from this point on.”

Pelle said downed power lines are suspected to have caused the Marshall fire, though authorities continue to investigate.

However, according to a statement by the Boulder Office of Emergency Management, power company Xcel Energy said it found no power lines down in the area where the fire started.

About 17,000 customers were without power Friday in Colorado, most of them in Boulder County, after the fire engulfed 6,200 acres overnight, Michelle Kelly of the Boulder Incident Management Team told CNN, chi. KUSA branch.

“We are still operating within the fire range both in the Superior and Louisville communities,” she said.

‘The winds are turning madly strong’

Thursday’s event was a “true historic storm,” with gusts of more than 100 mph in Jefferson and Boulder counties causing fires, the National Weather Service said.

Folsom “saw houses blowing up right in front of our eyes” on Thursday night, he told CNN.

“It was one of the most unsettling situations I’ve ever been in,” Folsom said on Friday.

“One minute, nothing at all. Then plums of smoke appeared. Then flames. Then flames flared around and multiplied,” said Boulder Heights resident Andy Thorn. about forest fires during high winds, said. He watched flames and smoke spread Thursday from his home in the foothills.

The strong wind gusts on Thursday pushed the blaze “down a football field in seconds,” Polis said.

“There’s no way,” he said, “to quantify in any way financially the cost of loss – the loss of the chair that was passed down to you from your grandmother, the loss of your childhood, the loss of your photos, the loss of your computer files – something hundreds of Colorado families have experienced today without warning.”

Among them was a University of Colorado assistant football coach, who said his family lost “every material possession” Thursday in the wildfire.

“Our home, our car and everything we had in our house was lost to the fire that consumed our community,” Mark Smith wrote on Twitter. “Thank you to everyone who has been in touch. Dealing with how to fully start anew and grateful for our health.”

Sam Weaver, the former Mayor of Boulder, evacuated the animals Thursday afternoon from the home of his brother, whose family was overseas, he told CNN on Friday.

Weaver, who is also a former fire chief for the Sugarloaf community, said: “The winds are going crazy. We saw two different front fires near their home about half a mile away.”

“We spent several hours loading the animals into trailers and lorries and carrying them away, taking out our computers and photo albums as the fire got closer and closer,” he said. “By the time we left, say about 4, the fire was several hundred meters away – maybe 300, 400 meters. So we had to leave.

“We hope the house is fine,” Weaver added, “but no word yet today.”

‘It’s just a doomsday feeling’

Polis said evacuation centers have been opened, including one for evacuees with Covid-19. Along with a nationwide case boom, Colorado on Thursday recorded its highest number of daily coronavirus cases ever, with an average of 5,427 cases per day statewide last week, according to the analysis. CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

All in all, “We had 300 people spend the night in shelters,” Kelly said.

On Thursday at Costco in Superior, Hunt Frye was buying soup for his wife when an employee told customers to evacuate. People were initially calm as they left the store, Frye said, but then left “like an antelope, running around.”

“It was quite scary. It was like a life out of a dream,” he said. “It’s just a doomsday feeling.”

As he drove through the thick smoke, Frye was “trying to get out safely.”

“But people are running out of their homes with their pet cats and you know, everybody’s freaking out,” he said. “What really struck me was the fear on the faces of the police officer(s) who were trying to make traffic go. They were legitimately scared.”

A notice Thursday morning from their nursery in nearby Louisville was sent to Chris Smith and his wife, in downtown Superior, to “come pick up the girls,” he told CNN affiliate KCNC . “Let’s act quickly,” city officials there urged in their evacuation orders.

“I called my wife, and she started packing up valuables and clothes to evacuate,” Smith said. He drove through the smoke on his way there and on his way back.

Across the fire area, roads were blocked with smoke and traffic jams as people tried to find their way out.

The situation on the ground is “unbelievable,” Weaver told CNN.

“When you talk about what’s going on on the ground, it’s really trying to get out of the way of the fire that’s being pushed forward and get everything out there that we can,” he said. “The focus is on life safety.”

Julie Tanous, an employee at Home Depot in Louisville, stood from the store watching as wind and smoke blew through the area.

“It’s like a disaster movie,” Tanous told CNN on Friday. She went back to the store to clean up. Ash is everywhere, she said.

The winds make the fight against fire difficult

Weaver told CNN “New Day.”

“The high wind speed pushed the embers and other flames forward too quickly,” he said, adding, “There’s no way to hit it directly, that’s quite true. Even from two side, you have to be careful with the swirling winds. nearby.”

The winds had dropped below 20 mph early Friday, and the area is under a winter weather warning, with heavy snowfall as the sun rises, said CNN meteorologist Shackelford.

“Friday’s predicted snowfall” comes at a favorable time,” said Shackelford, as 100% of the state is experiencing some kind of drought, and this snowfall will also help contain the Marshall fires. “

Much of the western United States has been mired in severe and historic drought, with warmer temperatures and drier conditions as a result of climate change. Denver has seen just over 1 inch of rain over the past six months – a record low for the second half of the year. Boulder and surrounding counties are classified as “extreme drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The wildfires raging in Colorado ended a year in which more than 58,000 wildfires burned more than 7.8 million acres across the US – just above the 10-year average – according to the Fire Center National Interdisciplinary. The national wildfire readiness rating stood at the highest level for 68 days in a row this summer as the Northern Hemisphere’s wildfire summer released record carbon emissions.

Still, although Friday’s snow in Colorado will help stem the wildfire’s progression, “for some people, it’s going to be a problem trying to get stuff from any burned home.” come on,” Weaver said.

“If the snow falls too quickly,” he added, “it can cause further property damage.”

Recovery plans already underway

Boulder’s Office of Emergency Management asked residents to stay away from evacuation areas Friday morning, though some have already begun the recovery process. A search party has been scheduled on Facebook for the weekend. On another Facebook page, dozens of posts about animals they were looking for or finding in and around the burned areas.

The governor said Polis and President Joe Biden spoke Friday, and Biden approved a major disaster emergency declaration to be finalized later in the day.

“That is to say, it allows those who suffered – small businesses and homeowners – to not have to wait for a preliminary damage assessment to get home and small business assistance,” Polis said. “So that’s coming out soon.

“And the President sends his warm greetings to the people of Colorado and those directly impacted.”

A UCHealth spokesperson told CNN at least six people were treated for injuries related to one of the fires. A law enforcement officer suffered minor eye injuries from blowing debris.

Polis on Thursday declared a state of emergency, giving the state access to emergency disaster funds to help respond. Colorado Fire: No deaths reported in raging blaze; it could be a ‘new year miracle’, says governor

Dais Johnston

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