Three people are missing and 1,000 homes were destroyed in this week’s sudden, rare winter wildfire in Colorado, officials said Saturday.
The wind-whipped wildfire erupted Thursday in and around the communities of Louisville and Superior at the base of the Rocky Mountains. The fire by Saturday had scorched entire neighborhoods from Denver to Boulder, a distance of about 30 miles.
Officials, who initially believed no one was killed in the fire, are now preparing cadaver teams to search for the missing, they said.
Investigators are still trying to determine what sparked the outbreak, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Belle told reporters on Saturday. At least seven people were hurt, authorities said.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said David Marks as he stood on a hillside surveying the devastation in Superior below. “Just house after house, fences, just stuff flying through the air, just caught on fire.”
Cathy Glaab of Superior watched as her entire home was turned into a pile of charred debris, one of seven houses in a row destroyed by the fire.
“The mailbox is standing,” Glaab said amid tears. “So many memories.”
The fire struck even as the area faced single-digit temperatures and had at least 6 inches of snow on the ground, creating an eerie juxtaposition of smoldering homes amid the frozen wintry tableau.
The blaze burned nearly 10 square miles but was no longer considered an immediate threat as of Saturday, the report states.
Ninety percent of Boulder County is in severe or extreme drought, and hadn’t seen substantial rainfall since mid-summer, helping fuel the rare fire so late in the year.
President Joe Biden on Friday declared a major disaster in the area, ordering federal aid be made available to those affected.