Thousands flee homes in Colorado as forest fires burn

It is estimated that 580 homes, a hotel and a mall have burned, and tens of thousands of people have been evacuated in wildfires outside of Denver, Colorado.

At least one paramedic and six others were injured, officials said, though County Sheriff Joe 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 the wind blew up. to 169 kilometers per. hour.

The first fire broke out just before 10:30 a.m. and was “attacked fairly quickly and put down later in the day and is currently being monitored” without any structures lost, Sheriff Pelle said.

Houses decimated by flames at night in Colorado
Houses are burning while a wildfire tears through a development near Rock Creek Village in Colorado. (AP Photo: David Zalubowski)

Another wildfire that was reported just after noon. 11, “ballooned and spread rapidly eastward,” said Sheriff Pelle.

The fire stretches over 6.5 square kilometers and has engulfed parts of the area in smoky, orange skies and sent residents in rapid strides to get to safety.

The activity of the fires, which burn unusually late in the winter season, will depend on how the wind behaves overnight and can determine when crews are able to go in and begin assessing the damage and looking for any victims.

“It’s the kind of fire we can not fight head on,” said Sheriff Pelle.

“We actually had deputy sheriffs and firefighters in areas who had to pull out because they were just overrun.”

Evacuation in progress

Evacuation has been ordered to the city of Louisville, which houses about 21,000 people, and the Superior, which has an additional 13,000 residents.

Residents evacuated fairly calmly and orderly, but the winding streets of suburban subdivisions quickly became clogged as people tried to get out.

Police are directing motorists during an evacuation as a wildfire burns near a shopping mall
Police are directing motorists during an evacuation as a wildfire burns near a shopping mall.(AP Photo: David Zalubowski)

It sometimes took cars all the way up to 45 minutes to get less than a mile ahead.

Small fires appeared here and there in surprising places – on the grass in a median or in a container in the middle of a parking lot – when gusts of wind caused the fire to bounce and spread. Changing winds caused the sky to turn from clear to smoky and then back again as emergency sirens crashed nearby.

Some of the multiple fires in the area Thursday were triggered by broken down power lines.

Denver set a record for most consecutive days without snow before it got a little storm on December 10th. It has not snowed since, although snow was expected in the region on Friday (local time).

The fires prompted Governor Jared Polis to declare a state of emergency, giving the state access to emergency preparedness funds.

Climate change is taking its toll

The evacuations come as climate change makes the weather more extreme and forest fires more frequent and devastating, scientists say. Historical droughts and heat waves have made forest fires harder to fight in the western United States.

Ninety percent of Boulder County is in severe or extreme drought and has not seen significant rainfall since mid-summer.

“With no snow on the ground, this would definitely not have happened the way it did,” said snow hydrologist Keith Musselman, who was at home when the fire broke out not far away.

Musselman said this serious fire risk can be expected in September and October after a dry summer, but the lack of rainfall – snow or rain – so late in the season is very unusual.

The National Weather Service predicts that there may be a foot of snow in Boulder on Friday (local time) and that moisture will bring significant relief, Mr Musselman said.

AP

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