Boulder County Fires: More than 500 houses burn, tens of thousands evacuate as fires continue to spread

Boulder County Fires: More than 500 houses burn, tens of thousands evacuate as fires continue to spread

Boulder County Fires: More than 500 houses burn, tens of thousands evacuate as fires continue to spread

Fast-moving grass fires ripped through Boulder County Thursday, torching hundreds of homes and forcing evacuations for tens of thousands of residents.
The fires, fueled by dry conditions and winds that gusted more than 100 mph, were blamed for at least one injury, though authorities said more would likely be reported. There are currently no reported fatalities.
The high winds knocked down powerlines in multiple areas, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said at a press conference. Early evidence suggests a sparking power line could have ignited the fires. Xcel Energy cut off power to the area earlier on Thursday to prevent downed power lines from sparking and triggering more fires.
The fires, known as the Marshall and Middle Fork fires, brought 40-foot-high flames that engulfed football-field-sized stretches of grass in moments, Pelle said. Before sunset, grass fires spread to nearly 1,600 acres and engulfed more than 500 homes in the town of Superior as it burned near other heavily populated suburbs northwest of Denver, Pelle said.
A winter storm is forecasted to move through the region Friday, which could bring moisture that helps crews contain the fires, Pelle said.
Late-December wildfires aren’t unheard of in Colorado, but the colder fall and winter months used to mean a break from the state’s peak fire season. Scientists and fire ecologists say climate change, fueled by human-made carbon emissions, has added 78 days to the fire season since the 1970s.
Researchers say that the warming temperatures, combined with more intense droughts and larger numbers of people living in wildfire-prone areas, have increased the danger.
Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon. Evacuations were ordered for multiple locations across the region. Evacuation centers were set up at the North Boulder Recreation Center, 3170 Broadway in Boulder; the YMCA of Northern Colorado, 2800 Dagny Way in Lafayette and the Rocky Mountain Christian Church, 9447 Niwot Rd. in Longmont.
COVID-positive evacuees are being directed to the Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, 3485 Stanford Ct. in Boulder.
There are multiple road closures north and south of Boulder as the fires spread. U.S. Highway 36 between Broomfield and Boulder is closed for westbound travelers.
Evacuating under dark and smoky skies
Roselyn Adams and her husband evacuated their Louisville home under dark and smoky skies. Adams said the wind was so intense it blew over their entire back fence.
“We were trying to get out of Louisville and it was just tree limbs all over the road,” Adams said.
Adams said she started to panic and pack a bag after noticing the smoke. She called her husband, and he made his way back home from his job in Boulder. A few hours later, authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders, so the couple grabbed the essentials and their two dogs and cat.
Ash was falling from the sky and covering Adams’ car when she and her husband drove to a friend’s house in nearby Lafayette.
“I know [Lafayette] is not totally out of the woods, but it was the closest place we could get,” Adams said. “We’re calling our family letting them know we’re OK.”
Adams said she could never imagine her neighborhood, just 10 minutes from Boulder, having to be evacuated due to a wildfire. She said the effects of climate change were on her mind as she fled flames in December amid long-term drought and warmer-than-normal temperatures.
Six people were taken to UCHealth Broomfield Hospital for treatment, according to hospital spokesperson Kelli Christensen. She said she couldn’t say what kind of injuries the people had, only that they were related to the fire.
The area’s only hospital, Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, was evacuated. Patients are being moved to either Longmont United or St. Anthony in Lakewood. Some surgical patients are being kept in the hospital. Families of patients can call 303-661-1848 to find out their whereabouts.
Mountain View Deputy Fire Marshal Michelle Kelly said she didn’t have an estimate of the number of firefighters working the wildfire. The agency covers more than 200 square miles, including Superior and other nearby towns and unincorporated parts of Boulder and Weld County.
“We do have resources from all along the front range and mountain communities that are assisting,” Kelly said.
Kelly recommended residents sign up for Everbridge Boulder, which works like reverse 911 and can provide emergency alerts for residents in Boulder County and surrounding municipalities.
Power lines down across Colorado
Xcel Energy reported more than 29,000 customers were without power across Colorado as of 6:30 p.m.

The University of Colorado Boulder reports numerous trees down on campus due to the wind. The National Weather Service in Boulder reported a gust of 105 mph.

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