Hundreds of homes are burning; evacuation ordered

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BOULDER, Colorado – Tens of thousands of people were ordered to flee their homes Thursday as several wind-driven forest fires burned near Boulder and Denver, Colorado, covering the area in smoke and destroying hundreds of buildings.

The National Weather Service called it a “life-threatening” situation when gusts of over 100 km / h were reported in the region, setting the flames on fire. Officials suspect some of the fires may have been triggered by broken power lines.

About 600 homes, a Target shopping complex and a hotel have been destroyed by fire in the area, according to Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle. A fire had burned over 1,600 acres in a suburban area from Thursday night, Pelle said at a news conference.

There are no reports of missing or killed persons yet. But Pelle said he would not be surprised if there were injuries or killed as a result of the fires.

Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon to give the state access to emergency supplies and services.

“This area, for those who do not know this area of ​​Boulder County, is right in and around the suburban suburbs, shops – it’s like the neighborhood you live in,” Polis told the news conference. “1,600 acres near a population center can be, and in this case, quite devastating.”

Thursday afternoon, a cloud of dark gray smoke could be seen blowing over the town of Superior, located about 20 miles northwest of Denver.

The entire city, which has about 13,000 inhabitants, was ordered to evacuate. About 210 homes were lost in the Old Town area of ​​Superior.

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PICTURES: Forest fires near Denver are forcing thousands to evacuate, vehicles and buildings burned

The city of Louisville, Colorado, with about 20,000 inhabitants, was also ordered to evacuate. All 370 homes in the Sagamore subdivision of Louisville also burned, Pelle said.

Six people were hospitalized with burns at UCHealth Broomfield Hospital, spokeswoman Kelli Christensen told USA TODAY. She could not elaborate on their relationship or the severity of burns due to HIPAA, a privacy law, but said all six were currently undergoing treatment.

Centura-Avista Adventist Hospital, just northwest of Broomfield, evacuated its patients and staff as the flames got closer. The hospital was completely evacuated at. 16.15 and sent patients to two sister hospitals. Before the hospital was evacuated, videos posted on social media showed flames just across the street with homes on fire. A video showed hospital workers in a field outside the hospital with a hose nearby that had been used to moisten the grass.

“Patients should not try to go to Avista Adventist Hospital; nearby roads have been closed. Patients should go to the nearest hospital to receive services or call 9-1-1 if it is an emergency,” said Lindsay Radford, a spokeswoman for the hospital .

From kl. 17 the fire was on its way through several neighborhoods in the Superior, setting some houses on fire, leaving others untouched. Almost everything that burned was completely uncontrolled, the firefighters could not stop the flames driven by the howling wind.

Pat Kilbride, who has lived in the Old Town area of ​​Superior for 30 years, said his house burned down and killed his dog and cat. He said he believed many other homes were also destroyed.

Kilbride hurried towards his house when he heard the fire approaching the area but could not get close due to roadblocks. When he arrived on foot, it was already engulfed.

“It’s all gone. The whole old town,” he said, “I go back to my truck and feel sorry for myself.”

Strong winds helped burn the fire with gusts as strong as 115 mph measured earlier in the day just south of Boulder, Bruno Rodriguez, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, told USA TODAY. Constant winds were measured around 40 mph with higher gusts throughout the region.

Rodriguez said the wind was unlike anything they have seen this season. Along with six to seven months of incredibly dry conditions, he said, it was “the worst, most horrible combination that just allowed a rapid fire like this.”

The region has only seen about 1.6 inches of rain since August, which was “well below normal,” Rodriguez said.

As firefighters continued to fight the raging fire, the area was also exposed to a winter storm warning with several inches of snow during the night and Friday. The wet snow should help extinguish the flame along with the wind, which is expected to subside out in the evening.

“Fortunately, we’re going to see rapidly changing weather conditions,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been waiting for this snow for a while and it could not have come at a better time.”

Trevor Hughes reported from Boulder.

Starring: Associated Press

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