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Colorado wildfires burn hundreds of homes, forcing evacuations

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Officials say a wildfire in Colorado has destroyed about 580 homes, a hotel and a shopping mall.

(AP Photo | David Zalubowski) Flames erupt as wildfires burn near a small shopping center Thursday, December 30, 2021, near Broomfield, Colo. Homes around the Flatiron Crossing shopping center are being evacuated as wildfires spread through grasslands as high winds hit intermountain West.

Denver • An estimated 580 homes, a hotel and a shopping center have burned and tens of thousands of people have been displaced in the wind-powered wildfires outside Denver, officials said late evening. Thursday.

At least one first responder and six others were injured, although Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle acknowledged there could be more injuries and possible deaths due to the intensity of the fire rapidly sweeping through the area. when gusts of up to 105 mph (169 km/h)).

The fire first broke out shortly before 10:30 a.m. and “was hit pretty quickly and resettled later in the day and is currently being monitored” with no structures lost, Pelle said.

(AP Photo | David Zelio) Firefighters spray water on a structure fire as a wildfire breaks out, Thursday, December 30, 2021, in Superior, Colo. Thousands of residents in Superior and Louisville, two communities near Denver, were ordered to evacuate Thursday because a wind-driven wildfire flooded parts of the area in a smoky sky.

A second bushfire was reported shortly after 11 a.m. “that broke out and spread rapidly eastward,” Pelle said. The blaze spanned 2.5 square miles (6.5 square kilometers) and engulfed parts of the area in a thick, smoky sky and left residents scrambling to get to safety.

The behavior of the fires, which burn irregularly in late winter, will depend on how winds are acting overnight and could determine when crews can go in and begin assessing damage and looking for any damage. any victim.

“This is the kind of fire that we can’t confront directly,” Pelle said. “We actually have sheriffs and firefighters in areas that have to retreat because they’ve just been overrun,” he added.

(Cliff Grassmick | Daily Camera via AP) A firefighter walks up a road near his home at Middle Fork Road and Foothills Freeway north of Boulder, Colo., on Thursday, December 30, 2021.

The city of Louisville, with a population of about 21,000, was ordered to evacuate after residents of Superior, which has 13,000 residents, were told to leave. Nearby towns are about 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Denver.

Several fires started in the area on Thursday, at least some sparked by collapsed power lines.

Spokesperson Kelli Christensen said six people injured in the fire were being treated at UCHealth Broomfield Hospital. A nearby section of US Highway 36 was also closed.

Colorado’s Front Range, where most of the state’s population lives, has had an extremely dry and mild fall, and winters have so far continued to be mostly dry. However, snow is expected on Friday in the area.

A video taken by an outsider outside a Superior Costco store shows the apocalypse with winds blowing through barren trees in a parking lot surrounded by gray skies, a dim sun and clouds. Small fires scattered on the ground.

Leah Angstman and her husband saw similar dark skies when returning to their Louisville home from Denver International Airport from vacation. As they were sitting on the bus heading toward Boulder, Angstman recalls immediately leaving the clear blue sky and entering clouds of brown and yellow smoke.

“The wind shook the bus so hard that I thought the bus would overturn,” she wrote in a message to the Associated Press.

Visibility was so poor that the bus pulled over and they waited for half an hour until a regional transit truck escorted them to the turn on the highway. There she saw four separate fires burning in the bushes across the freeway, she said.

“The sky was dark, dark brown, and the dust swirled across the pavement like snakes,” she said.

Angstman then ended up evacuating, got in the car with her husband, and drove northeast with no idea where they were going.

Vignesh Kasinath, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Colorado at Boulder, evacuated a neighborhood in Superior with his wife and her parents. Kasinath said the family was overwhelmed by the sudden evacuation warning and worried about the chaos while trying to leave.

“Only because I am active on Twitter did I know about this,” said Kasinath, who said he did not receive an official evacuation notice from authorities.

The fire prompted Governor Jared Polis to declare a state of emergency, giving the state access to disaster emergency funds.

Evacuations come as climate change is making weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and more destructive, say scientists. A historic drought and heatwaves have made wildfires harder to fight in the western United States.

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Associated Press writer Colleen Slevin contributed to this report. Nieberg is a corps member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover the issues covered.

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2021/12/30/colorado-wildfires-burn/ Colorado wildfires burn hundreds of homes, forcing evacuations

Yasmin Harisha

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