Louisville, CO

Wind-whipped Colorado wildfires burn more than 600 homes, displace thousands

Sara B. Hansen

A Mountain View wildland firefighter walks through the smoke and haze in Louisville, Colorado on Dec. 30.Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

By Sara B. Hansen / NewsBreak Denver

(Boulder County, Colo.) Winds up to 100 mph drove wildfires east from Boulder Thursday, burning more than 600 homes and an undetermined more of businesses. Evacuations displaced more than 30,000 people in Superior, Louisville, and Boulder County.

The evacuations included Avista Hospital, care facilities, and area businesses.

Officials believe high winds earlier Thursday caused downed power lines that sparked the Marshall Fire and others. Sustained high winds reached as high as 100 mph pushed the fires to 1,600 acres, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said at a Thursday night news conference.

“The end won’t come until the wind subsides,” Pelle said. “This is the kind of fire you can’t fight head-on.”

The wind subsided late Thursday, and Boulder County officials plan to provide updates at 10 a.m. Friday.

On Thursday, flames consumed more than 200 structures, including a hotel in downtown Superior.

The fire destroyed more than 200 structures in downtown Superior, including a hotel, Pelle said. More than 300 homes were on fire in a single neighborhood.

“We are literally watching it burn,” Superior Mayor Clint Folsom said in an interview with The Denver Post after more than 300 homes burned in a single neighborhood.

“This is devastating for our people.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency. “The declaration allows the state to access disaster emergency funds to support the emergency response efforts in Boulder and provide state resources including the use of the Colorado National Guard, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and activation of the State Emergency Operations Center.”

Officials said the Marshall Fire is the most destructive in Colorado’s history.

Drought and unseasonably mild temperatures set the stage for Thursday’s devastation, but a rapid weather change is expected to bring several inches of snow to the area should help firefighters.

Want to help?

Make donations to help evacuees at the Boulder County Wildfire Fund.

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Sara is the Denver news manager for NewsBreak. She's held editing roles at The Denver Post, The Des Moines Register, and The Fort Collins Coloradoan.

Denver, CO

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