Wildfires ravage Colorado; state of emergency declared

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


A pair of midwinter wildfires near Denver has destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced thousands of residents, and experts believe the worst news is likely still to come.

Officials believe the fires started when high winds damaged powerlines and transformers causing sparks which ignited dry grass.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle called it a “harrowing day” and confirmed the extensive loss of property. He added that, as of Thursday night, there were no confirmed deaths.

“However, I’d like to emphasize that due to the magnitude of this fire, the intensity of this fire, and its presence in such a heavily populated area, we would not be surprised if there are injuries or fatalities,” Pelle said.

As of Friday morning, at 8 a.m. Eastern, six people had been thus far treated with injuries according to a report on CNN

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has declared a state of emergency, and officials have scheduled an update for Friday at noon Eastern. 

According to the Boulder County Office of Emergency Management, the two fires began mid-morning. While the first, called the Middle Fork fire, was subdued relatively quickly; the second, the Marshall fire, continued to spread rapidly to the East thanks to the presence of gale-force winds that peaked at more than 110 miles per hour.

These conditions, Pelle said, made it impossible to combat the flames or save property. The only recourse for emergency workers became the preservation of life.

“If you are in Louisville, this is a life threatening situation. LEAVE NOW! #MarshallFire,” a tweet from the National Weather Service in Boulder read.

About 31,000 people were ordered to evacuate the towns of Louisville and Superior, where at least 500 homes were destroyed. Pelle said an entire subdivision of 370 homes was lost.

Making matters worse, the area has become blanketed by smoke. Reuters reports that the smoke is visible 20 miles away in Denver.

By Thursday night, even as the fire still raged, emergency workers began facing a new challenge. People – some intensely concerned about the safety of their homes, others desiring to witness the destruction close up – were beginning to encroach on the fire.


The Boulder Office of Emergency Management tweeted later Thursday night, “Residents who evacuated/have property in evacuation zones, please do NOT return to the area. We know that you are concerned about your home/belongings. First responders are working non-stop to keep everyone safe, even as they don’t know the status of their own homes in the area.”

The first piece of encouraging news came late Thursday when the National Weather  Service announced that the high winds that powered the fire were subsiding.

According to the Office of the Governor, evacuation sites for residents and animals remain open and numerous state and civic groups have begun offering assistance.