Officials in Colorado claim that nearly 1,000 homes and other structures were damaged and hundreds more were also damaged. Three people are still missing after a wildfire destroyed many neighbourhoods in a suburban area near the base of Rocky Mountains.
Joe Pelle, Boulder County Sheriff said Saturday that investigators continue to investigate the cause of the wind-whipped fire that erupted on Thursday and blackened entire areas in the area between Denver Boulder.
Pelle said that utility officials discovered no downed electricity lines around the area where the fire broke. Pelle said authorities were following a number of tips, and had executed a search warrant in one location. He declined to disclose details.
A Boulder County sheriff’s official, who declined to give his name, confirmed that one property was under investigation. It was located in Boulder County’s Marshall Mesa region, which is a region of open pastureland approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) west of the hard-hit community of Superior.
According to an official, access was blocked by a National Guard Humvee. This was just one of many under investigation.
Pelle provided a list of totals that included barns, outbuildings, or other structures. But, the vast majority of the victims were homes, Jennifer Churchill, Boulder County spokesperson, said late Saturday.
Officials had previously predicted that at most 500 homes and possibly 1,000 homes would be destroyed by the fire. However, Friday’s fire was not considered a threat. Slowly, residents are beginning to see the extent of the destruction.
Authorities had earlier stated that no one was still missing. Churchill claimed that this was because of the confusion caused by agencies trying to manage an emergency.
Pelle stated that officials were creating cadaver teams in order to search for the missing in the Superior and unincorporated Boulder counties. The task is complicated because debris from the destroyed structures are covered by 8 in (20 cm) of snow dumped by an overnight storm, he said.
Pelle stated that at least 991 homes and other structures were destroyed. He said that 553 were in Louisville, 332 was in Superior, and 106 were in unincorporated areas of the county. Pelle cautioned, however, that the final count was not complete.
At least seven people were hurt in the wildfire that erupted around Louisville and Superior. These towns are located about 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Denver and have a combined population 34,000. It burned approximately 9.4 square miles (24 sq kilometers).
The still-smoldering homes were surrounded by snow and temperatures in single digits, creating an eerie scene. Despite the dramatic weather change, the smell of smoke permeated the streets that were closed off by National Guard troops in Humvees. Residents who tried to salvage what little they had left of their homes were made worse by these conditions.
Utility crews struggled with restoring electricity and gas service to homes that survived. Dozens of people lined up to receive donated space heaters, water, blankets, and water at Red Cross shelters. Xcel Energy urged residents to use wood stoves or fireplaces to heat their homes and prevent pipes from freezing.
A long line of families waited to get space heaters and bottled waters at the YMCA of Lafayette, just north from Superior. Monarch High School seniors Noah Sarasin, and his twin brother Gavin, had been volunteering at the location for two days, directing traffic as well as distributing donations.
Noah Sarasin explained that we have a home, but no heat, but still have a home. I just want everyone to have heat on this cold day. Hilary and Patrick Wallace bought two heaters and then ordered two hot chocolate mochas from a nearby café. The Superior couple couldn’t find a hotel so they considered hiking the 2 miles (3.2 km) back to their home. Their neighborhood was still closed to traffic. The family slept in a single room on New Years Eve.
Both were overcome with laughter when a man entered the shop. He joked that he’d lost all his coffee mugs and other items in the fire. The irony of it all made the man smile and laugh.
I have a space heater, and a house to place it in. Hilary said, wiping away tears, that I don’t know what to do to them.
Superior resident Jeff Markley arrived at his truck to pick-up a heater. He said that he felt fortunate to only be temporarily displaced as his home is still intact. We are making do, staying close to friends, and optimistic for the new year. Markley said, “It’s better than the last one.”
Not everyone felt as optimistic.
It’s bittersweet because our house is ours, but our friends don’t. Judy Givens, a Louisville resident who picked up a heater for her husband, said that it’s not the case with our neighbors.
We thought 2022 could be better. And then we had the omicron. We now have this, but it isn’t going so well. Dozens of people trudged through snow to assess the condition and take possessions of their homes.
Viliam Klein fell to the ground in grief as he saw the ruins his 100-year old Superior home for Saturday. The snow-covered ashes were covered in smoke. A few neighbors walked by carrying what little they could from their homes that had been destroyed.
Klein said that at this moment, I am just overwhelmed and can’t feel anything anymore. He sifted bits of ash with his fingers; smoke rose from the palms of his glove-covered hands. He surveyed the remaining neighborhood.
You’re aware that the playground for children is right down the street. I can also buy new books. I can also buy new furniture. Klein stated that it is difficult to reestablish a community, friends, and a social network such as this.
I feel sorry for my kids. I’m sorry for all the other children. Donna O’Brien, along with her son Robert, made the 1.5-mile (2.4 km) trek to check on their home. She said that she thinks we are still in shock.
This is our area and it happens everywhere else. However, it’s not supposed happen where you live. After a dry fall and a winter that was almost devoid of snow, the wildfire erupted in unusually late part of the year. The flames were fed by bone-dry grasses, vegetation on farmland, and open spaces interspersed between suburban subdivisions by high winds.
Scientists believe climate change is making weather extremes and wildfires more common and more destructive.
Ninety percent (90%) of Boulder County are in severe or extremely drought and haven’t had any significant rainfall since mid-summer. Denver set a new record for consecutive days without snow. It got a small snowstorm on Dec. 10, the last snowfall before the wildfires.
It didn’t snow during the entire winter of 2021. Klein said that it was no wonder that this all went up like kindling.
(This story is not edited by Devdiscourse staff.