Thousands displaced as wind-driven fires torch homes across Colorado

Authorities say several of the fires may have been started by downed power lines, with winds gusting as high as 105 mph.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

On Thursday, thousands of people in Colorado received messages to evacuate immediately, as wildfires propelled by strong winds ripped through the Boulder suburbs of Louisville and Superior.

The first fire, the Middle Fork Fire, popped up in the area around 10:30am, but was "attacked pretty quickly and laid down later in the day" with no structures lost, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle told the Associated Press.

A second fire, the Marshall Fire, was reported around 11am, which quickly ballooned in size, covering at least 2.5 square miles.

Authorities say several of the fires may have been started by downed power lines, with winds gusting as high as 105 mph.

"This is the kind of fire we can't fight head-on," Pelle said. "We actually had deputy sheriffs and firefighters in areas that had to pull out because they just got overrun."

An estimated 580 homes, a hotel, and a shopping center were destroyed in the blaze.

The outskirts of Boulder, as well at the entire state of Colorado, are experiencing severe drought conditions, fueled by a mild fall and lack of early winter snowfall. These conditions allowed the fire to spread quickly.

While some neighboring town have had their evacuation or pre-evacuation notices lifted, Superior and Louisville remain in evacuation status, with no person being allowed inside the town, according to the Denver Post.

The Boulder Office of Emergency Management has warned residents that evacuated their property not to return to the area until they give the go ahead message.

According to the Associated Press, at least one first responder and six others have been injured in the fire.

Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency on Thursday, allowing use of disaster funding to support emergency response efforts, and to allow mobilization of the Colorado National Guard, according to Reuters.

Authorities said that forecasts called for wind speeds to fall late on Thursday or early on Friday, which will allow firefighters to use water-dropping helicopters and airplane tankers to be used against the fires. The forecast also calls for snow to hit the region starting on Friday.


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