Up to 1,000 homes have been burned in what is being called the most destructive blaze in Colorado’s history.
Horrifying aerial footage shows the devastating impact of the fast-moving wildfire fanned by powerful winds that ripped through towns near Boulder,Colorado, on Thursday, prompting the evacuation of about 30,000 residents.
As the fires raged, startling video, filmed from a plane flying above the state, shows the towns of Superior and Louisville engulfed in flames at multiple locations.
Officials have declared the fire the most devastating ever to impact the state.
Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency, allowing the state to deploy emergency funds and resources including Colorado National Guard.
The wind gusts of 110 miles per hour had pushed fire at an astonishing speed, burning across 6,000 acres and destroying more than 500 homes — possibly as many as 1,000. Some owners watched on door-cams as fire approached their homes.
“This fire is, frankly, a force of nature,” said Mr Polis. “For those who have lost everything that they’ve had, know that we will be there for you to help rebuild your lives.”
The grass fire is believed to have been ignited by sparks from power lines and transformers toppled by high winds of Colorado’s drought-parched Front Range, according to Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle.
The Boulder Office of Emergency Management has urged residents not to return to their homes.
Thousands displaced as wild grass fire destroys hundreds of homes
Two northern Colorado cities on Thursday were ordered to evacuate as the wildfires fueled by 110-mph winds burned down hundreds of homes.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said in a press briefing that an entire subdivision of 370 homes in Superior had been burned, along with an additional 210 homes in the city’s old town neighborhood.
A hotel and shopping center were also destroyed. Evacuation orders were first issued in the town of Superior and then in the adjacent municipality of Louisville, which has a combined resident population of 31,000.
Governor declares state of emergency in Colorado
Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency on Thursday due to the Marshall Fire in Boulder County.
“The declaration allows the state to access disaster emergency funds to support the emergency response efforts in Boulder and provide state resources including the use of the Colorado National Guard, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and activation of the State Emergency Operations Center,” according to the statement.
“Prayers for thousands of families evacuating from the fires in Superior and Boulder County,” said the governor. “Fast winds are spreading flames quickly and all aircraft are grounded.”
Firefighting conditions expected to improve as winds decrease
According to the National Weather Service, firefighting conditions were expected to improve overnight as winds decrease late on Thursday.
The reduced speed would enable the firefighters to get ahead of the flames and for water-dropping helicopters and airplane tankers to be deployed against the blaze.
The agency however, extended the high-speed warning through 8 pm local time. Snow expected on Friday could help douse the blaze, reported USA Today quoting a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Louisville hospital forced to evacuate
All patients and staff in the 114-bed facility of Avista Adventist Hospital was fully evacuated after a wildfire started not far from the hospital.
“As of 4.15 pm, Centura-Avista Adventist Hospital is fully evacuated. All patients were safely transferred to two of our sister facilities within Centura - Longmont United Hospital or St. Anthony North, and some were discharged from the hospital. All associates at this time have also been evacuated,” said the release from Centura Health.
Dramatic footage captures the chaos in Superior
Dramatic video footage captured the extent of chaos in Costco in Superior as people evacuated following the wildfire that engulfed the region.
The video, which played out on Denver7 News, showed people trying to navigate their way through the dense smoke. The cars were moving slowly, as the residents tried to cross the road amid a drastically declined visibility range.
The sound of the fire brigade could be heard over that of strong winds as several attempted to get into their cars to escape the wildfire.
What caused the wildfire in Colorado
The wildfire is believed to have been started by downed power lines, along with a combination of wind gusts over 100 miles per hour and widespread drought, according to Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle.
Daniel Swain, a meteorolgist at the University of California, tweeted that it was “genuinely hard to believe” these fires were happening in December, which is usually a quieter time for blazes.
“But take a record warm & dry fall, only 1 inch of snow so far this season, & add an extreme (100mph ) downslope windstorm...and extremely fast moving/dangerous fires are the result.”
High wind warning in Boulder county cancelled
The National Weather Service cancelled the high wind warnings in Boulder county.
“Good news. The High Wind Warning have all been cancelled. Still some gusty/variable winds to contend with, but fortunately the stronger winds are now over,” tweeted the NWS.
Earlier, wind gusts of over 110 miles per hour was registered in the region and was cited as a major factor contributing to the rapid spread of the wildfire.
A house burnt down in 20 minutes
Gripping the intensity with which the fire is spreading and destroying everything on its way, a picture by 9 News photojournalist Chris Hansen showed a house previously untouched by the wildfire, up in flames in 20 minutes.
“Twenty minutes ago, this house along Harper Lake in Louisville was untouched by fire. Now it’s gone. Two people stand outside,” tweeted 9 News journalist Kyle Clark.
FEMA to pay 75 per cent of the firefighting cost
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will pay 75 per cent of the state’s firefighting costs as it authorised funding to help fight the Marshall Fire.
The grant money provided through President’s Disaster Relief fund can be used for setting up field camps, equipment use, repair and replacement work, tools, materials and supplies.
The grants are available “to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster,” according to FEMA.
Videos captures families Videos fleeing Chuck E Cheese and Costco
Customers rushed to evacuate a Costco retail store and a Chuck E Cheese restaurant in Superior, Colorado, on Thursday after a wildfire started spreading rapidly across the area due to gusty winds.
A video taken from inside the Chuck E Cheese outlet shared by Twitter user Jason Fletcher showed large patches of flames just a few metres away from the building. Parents were seen screaming inside the outlet as they tried to gather their children to leave the outlet.
Multiple people had to struggle to open the outlet’s main entrance because of strong winds.
Read the report from my colleague Alisha Rahaman Sarkar:
People were seen scrambling to get hold of the children to leave the building
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