At least 500 homes — and possibly as many as a thousand — were destroyed heading into the last day of the year as 110 mph winds pushed wildfires across suburban areas of Denver and Boulder, Colorado, according to published reports.
The New York Times is reporting tens of thousands of people were evacuated in Boulder County, where the homes along with a shopping complex and a hotel were burned to the ground.
Miraculously, the Associated Press is reporting there have been no fatalities, and only seven people have been injured as of Saturday morning.
“We might have our very own New Year’s miracle on our hands if it holds up that there was no loss of life,” said Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.
Towering flames were lighting up the sky on Friday morning, as winds began to die down and snow was in the forecast, raising optimism that hot spots could soon be snuffed out naturally.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said some of the communities hit by the fire have become “smoking holes in the ground,” and urged those evacuated not to return until receiving an all-clear, as the areas may still be too dangerous due to still-burning fires and downed power line, according to the AP.
The fires, which began on Thursday, came unusually late in the year, according to the Times, which said there have been severe drought conditions in the area in recent months, making it easier for such fires to spread.
As they did, the sky above Boulder County turned orange, and the wind blew ash into the air and buildings began to ignite. Residents of the entire towns of Superior and Louisville, as well as some in Broomfield and Westminster — all between Boulder and Denver — were told by authorities to evacuate.
Gov. Polis declared a state of emergency on Thursday.
“This fire is, frankly, a force of nature,” he said at a news conference on Thursday. “For those who have lost everything that they’ve had, know that we will be there for you to help rebuild your lives.”
[New York Times] — Vince DiMiceli