The Marshall Fire in Boulder County, propelled by winds of up to 110 mph and fueled by dry grass, tore through up to 1,000 homes but so far doesn’t appear to have claimed any human lives, according to Gov. Jared Polis and other officials who spoke at a press conference Friday morning. It’s the most destructive fire in Colorado history.
Believed to have been caused by electrical lines that were blown down, the fire started on Thursday afternoon and by Friday morning was not expected to grow beyond its 6,000-acre extent. Crews on Thursday also responded to the Middle Fork Fire, just north of Boulder around North Foothills Highway and Middle Fork Road.
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Officials during the press conference — which included Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, Lafayette resident Rep. Joe Neguse, and Sen. Michael Bennet — struggled to capture in words the ferocious speed and scale of the fires, which were unusual for occurring so late in December and in a highly developed suburban area.
“Unprecedented,” is how Neguse described the flames. “They moved through neighborhoods with a speed and a magnitude like we have never seen before. And we know already that the damage will be costly and disastrous.”
Polis said, “There’s no technology or equipment that’s available to have halted this kind of fire in its tracks.” On Thursday, Polis had said the fire moved so fast it sometimes overtook an area the size of a football field “in a matter of seconds.”
Experts already are pointing to climate change as a main factor in Thursday’s events. “The terrible firestorm was a result of a very warm, dry period combined with an extreme high wind event. There is a clear connection to CLIMATE CHANGE!” tweeted Denver meteorologist Mike Nelson.
Responders were still in the early stages of performing structure-to-structure damage assessments, and residents who were evacuated were precluded from returning to their homes. Pelle said it would take “at least a day” to carry out the assessments, after which staff will post a map at the website of the Boulder Office of Emergency Management showing structure status by address.
Pelle characterized the number of destroyed homes by saying, “I would estimate it’s going to be at least 500 homes. I would not be surprised if it’s a thousand.”
The worst-hit areas appear to be in the north part of Superior and southern Louisville. Both communities, comprising more than 30,000 residents, were evacuated Thursday. Every one of the 370 homes in Superior’s Sagamore neighborhood appear to have been burned. In Old Town Superior, as many as 210 homes were lost. Many businesses were also destroyed. Superior Marketplace, a shopping plaza that includes a Super Target, burned, and the Element hotel in Superior was “fully engulfed.”
Dozens of evacuated Superior residents and friends of residents gathered Friday morning on a ridge along Colorado 128 south of Superior’s Rock Creek subdivision, which offered a panoramic view of smoldering neighborhoods. They scanned the scene, trying to determine the condition of their homes. One woman asked Denver Post photographer RJ Sangosti to zoom in on a home so she could assess it on his camera’s digital screen. She burst into tears when she saw that it appeared to have survived.
Jola Gaik, who lives with her daughter in Rock Creek, similarly determined with …….