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Colorado Governor Declares State of Emergency As 1000s Flee Winter Wildfires

Colorado Governor Declares State of Emergency As 1000s Flee Winter Wildfires

Colorado governor Jared Polis has declared a state of emergency after two fast-moving wildfires driven by strong winds erupted in the northern part of the state on Thursday afternoon. Tens of thousands of Coloradans were driven from their neighborhoods by the wind-whipped wildfires. Videos shared on social media showed anxious shoppers and others waiting to learn what’s left standing of their lives after the flames burned homes, a hotel, and a shopping center.

The fires, burning to the north and south of the city of Boulder, were fanned by gusts that whipped flames and smoke into a frenzy. Officials said during a Thursday evening news conference that the fires had already blackened 1,600 acres. At least 600 homes were likely destroyed, but thankfully there were no known deaths at press time.

During a press conference Thursday evening, Governor Polis thanked first responders and shared that the National Guard and federal resources were being deployed to aid in the firefight, and would arrive soon. “This fire is not so much a question of resources,” he said. “This fire is a force of nature.”

Emergency call lines were inundated throughout the day and evacuation routes were heavily trafficked, said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle during the briefing. “I have never seen anything like it,” he said of the speed and intensity of the fire, which consumed football fields of land in mere seconds. “This was a horrific event.”

At least one first responder and six others were injured, though Sheriff Pelle acknowledged there could be more injuries and deaths could be possible due to the intensity of fires that quickly swept across the region as winds gusted up to 105 mph.

 

The first fire erupted just before 10:30 a.m. and was “attacked pretty quickly and laid down later in the day” with no structures lost, the sheriff said. A second blaze, reported just after 11 a.m., ballooned and spread rapidly, Pelle said. It covered at least 2.5 square miles

Ninety percent of Boulder County is in severe or extreme drought, and it hasn’t seen substantial rainfall since mid-summer. Colorado’s Front Range, where most of the state’s population lives, had an extremely dry and mild fall, and winter has been mostly dry so far. Denver set a record for consecutive days without snow before it got a small storm on December 10th, its last snowfall before the wildfires broke out.

See Also

Community Foundation Boulder County is collecting monetary donations for those impacted. Donations can be made online at www.commfound.org/grants/get-grant/Boulder-County-Wildfire-Fund.

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