Snow and Ash: ‘Miracle’ No One Killed in Rare Colorado Winter Forest Fire

Dec.31 (Reuters) – Colorado officials on Friday said it was a “miracle” that no deaths were reported in a rare urban forest fire that moved at breakneck speed through cities across the country. north of Denver, destroying more than 1,000 homes.

The blaze was caused by gusts of wind of 105 miles per hour (169 km per hour), which caused flames to leap over highways and entire neighborhoods on Thursday, authorities said. The winds created a mosaic burn pattern that saw untouched houses stand next to those left in ashes.

Officials said on Friday that the winds had calmed down and snow was coming, and that they did not expect the blaze to pose any more danger.

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Jennifer Balch, director of the University of Colorado Earth Lab whose research focuses on the ecology of fire, lives a few miles from the fire area and said the blaze was shocking for many reasons. She went for a walk on Friday morning, trying to get a better vantage point to see the damage from the fire.

“I could smell smoke and snowflakes hitting my cheeks. The ‘winter forest fires’ should be an oxymoron. We should not be dealing with forest fires in late December,” she said. declared.

Part of the story, Balch said, has to do with climate change. A very wet spring allowed more herbs to grow this year, which turned into highly combustible fuel during the hottest fall on record in the region amid a severe drought.

But she said population growth in Boulder County in recent years has meant more homes are being built in areas increasingly prone to wildfires.

The blaze swept around 6,000 acres in just hours, destroyed at least 500 homes and could have burned as many as 1,000, authorities said. Six people were treated for injuries Thursday and the blaze is largely contained, with only a few smoldering spots.

Homes damaged from wind-blown grass fires are seen in Harper Lake, Louisville, Colorado, the United States on December 31, 2021, in this still image obtained from social media video . Twitter / @ jpleggett / via REUTERS

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“We could have our own New Year’s miracle in our hands, if it confirms that there has been no loss of life,” Governor Jared Polis said at a press briefing.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said at the same briefing that no deaths had been reported so far and no one was missing.

Videos posted to social media showed frantic scenes as people shopping or dining in rushed to flee when flames lit against the buildings they were in.

Polis said he spoke to US President Joe Biden, who verbally endorsed a major disaster declaration to help people get financial assistance quickly after the fire.

The wildfire injured at least half a dozen people and evacuated tens of thousands of residents in and around two towns east of the Rockies near Denver. read more The origin of the wildfires has not been confirmed but was suspected to be power lines, officials said.

On Thursday, evacuation orders were first issued for all residents of the city of Superior, Colorado, with a population of approximately 13,000, and shortly thereafter for the adjacent municipality of Louisville, home to more of 18,000 inhabitants.

An entire subdivision of 370 homes caught fire west of Superior, and 210 homes were lost in Superior Old Town, along with additional residences in the area. The property losses also included a shopping center and a hotel in Superior, officials said.

Six people were treated for injuries from the wildfires at nearby UCHealth Hospital in Broomfield, spokeswoman Kelli Christensen said Thursday. She declined to specify the nature of the injuries or the condition of the patients.

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Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bangalore; Editing by Grant McCool and Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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