Published On: Fri, Dec 31st, 2021

Colorado wildfire still poses threat as snow aids fire crews in extinguishing blaze

The wind-whipped wildfire that barreled through suburban parts of Boulder County, Colorado, still posed a threat Friday morning, but snow was assisting fire crews in extinguishing the last of the blaze, officials said.

The fire destroyed somewhere between 500 to 1,000 homes in towns including Superior and Louisville, both about 20 miles outside of Denver.

In addition, many more homes and commercial buildings were damaged, Colorado officials said at a press conference Friday.

At least one first responder and six other people were injured, according to The Associated Press. But as of Friday morning, there were no immediate reports of any deaths from the fast-moving blaze — something Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle called a potential “miracle.”

A general view shows helicopters flying over grass fires, a day after wind-driven wildfires prompted evacuation orders, in Superior, Colo., on Dec. 31, 2021. Kevin Mohatt / Reuters

“It’s unbelievable, when you look at the devastation, that we don’t have a list of a hundred missing persons,” he said.

“I’m hoping that’s a miracle.”

Officials initially said they suspected a downed power line ignited the blaze. On Friday afternoon, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management said Xcel Energy had inspected all of their power lines within the ignition area and found none that were downed. The cause of the fire continued to be under investigation.

The wildfire happened unusually late in the year following an extraordinarily dry and warm fall, and prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

Many were still anxiously awaiting news of whether their homes were still standing Friday.

Dr. Bonnie Abbott embraces her husband George as they watch flames engulf homes as the Marshall Fire spreads through a neighborhood in Superior, Colo., on Dec. 30, 2021. Jason Connolly / AFP – Getty Images

But Pelle urged them not to return just yet.

Neighborhoods were still blocked off, he said, either because of downed power lines or because fires were still smoldering.

After a fall that saw nearly no snow, creating the dry conditions that Thursday’s wildfire thrived on, a winter storm warning was in effect for the area Friday into Saturday morning, with up to 10 inches of snow forecast.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who took an aerial tour of the damage before the snow started falling, said the fire had jumped around in a “very unusual burn pattern,” hopscotching from one neighborhood to the next yet leaving others unscathed.

“How grateful we are that the snow has started,” he said. “There were still some areas of active flames.”

Among the areas destroyed was an entire subdivision of 370 homes in Superior.

The fires were propelled by winds that gusted to up to 105 mph, leaving little time for residents to grab belongings before they had to run to safety.

“It was just heartbreaking driving around and seeing how many people that I knew, their homes were gone,” Superior Mayor Clint Folsom told MSNBC on Friday. “I’m still kind of in shock about the whole thing.”

President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration for the areas ravaged by the fires, Polis said, which will allow federal aid to flow in for small businesses and homeowners.

Polis vowed to support those affected.

“For those who have lost everything they had, it’s not going to be easy,” he said. “But you have your family. You have your health.”

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