Colorado wildfire: No deaths have been reported. It may be a ‘New Year’s miracle,’

“We might have our very own New Year’s miracle on our hands if it holds up that there was no loss of life,” Gov. Jared Polis said.

The outcome appears all the more astonishing considering how quickly the Marshall Fire spread. “In the blink of an eye,” the governor said Friday in a news conference, “many families having minutes, minutes to get whatever they could, their pets, their kids into the car and leave.”

Still, hundreds have lost homes and perhaps everything they own. Entire subdivisions burned, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.

“The west side of Superior, Old Town Superior … are totally gone,” he said after he and the governor flew over the area to assess the damage. “That accounts easily for 500 homes.”

The wildfire began Thursday morning and swallowed at least 1,600 acres in a matter of hours, prompting orders for people across two communities to evacuate.

A home burns Thursday after flames swept through the Centennial Heights neighborhood of Louisville, Colorado.
Amid historically powerful winds and drought-parched land, some 370 homes were destroyed in a single subdivision just west of the town of Superior, while another 210 homes may have been lost in Old Town Superior, the Boulder County sheriff said Thursday. No deaths or missing people were reported immediately.
How you can give or receive help for victims of Colorado's wildfires

As quickly as the winds began, they subsided overnight and the weather started a quick swing to the other extreme: The fire-ravaged area is under a winter weather warning Friday morning, with 5 to 10 inches of snow expected to fall by Saturday, CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

Downed power lines appear to have caused the Marshall Fire, Pelle said. About 17,000 customers had no power Friday in Colorado, most of them in Boulder County, after the blaze grew to 6,200 acres overnight, Michelle Kelly with the Boulder Incident Management Team told CNN affiliate KUSA.

“We do still have active burning within the fire perimeter both in the communities of Superior and Louisville,” she said Friday morning.

The mayor of Superior “witnessed houses just exploding right before our eyes” on Thursday evening, he told CNN.

“It was one of the most disturbing situations I have ever been in,” Clint Folsom said Friday.

‘The winds were going crazy strong’

Thursday’s event was a “truly historic windstorm,” with winds gusting over 100 mph in Jefferson and Boulder Counties and fueling the blazes, the National Weather Service said.

“One minute, there was nothing. Then, plumes of smoke appeared. Then, flames. Then, the flames jumped around and multiplied,” said Boulder Heights resident Andy Thorn, who’d always worried about wildfires during periods of high wind. He watched the flames and smoke spread Thursday from his home in the foothills.

The Marshall Fire burns Thursday in Broomfield, Colorado.

Wind gusts Thursday pushed the blaze “down a football field in a matter of seconds,” Polis said.

“There’s no way,” he said, “to quantify in any financial way, the price of a loss — of losing the chair that was handed down to you from your grandmother, of losing your childhood yearbooks, of losing your photos, of losing your computer files — which hundreds of Colorado families have experienced today with no warning.”

Among them is a University of Colorado assistant football coach who said his family lost “every material possession” Thursday in the wildfire.

“Our home, cars, and everything we had in our home lost to the fires that ripped through our community,” Mark Smith tweeted. “Thank you to those who reached out. Processing how to completely start over and grateful for our health.”

Former Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver evacuated animals Thursday afternoon from the home of his brother, who with his family is out of the country, he told CNN on Friday.

“The winds were going crazy strong. We saw two different flame fronts near their house about half a mile away,” said Weaver, who’s also the former fire chief for the community of Sugarloaf.

“We spent a couple hours loading the animals into trailers and trucks and taking them away, pulling out the computer and photo albums as the flames got closer and closer,” he said. “By the time we left, say around 4, the flames were a few hundred yards away — maybe 300, 400 yards away. So, we had to leave.”

“We hope the house is OK,” Weaver added, “but have no word yet today.”

‘It was just apocalyptic-feeling’

Evacuation centers were opened, including one for evacuees who have Covid-19, Polis said. In line with a nationwide explosion of cases, Colorado on Thursday recorded its highest ever daily coronavirus case count, with 5,427 cases per day on average statewide over the prior week, according to a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

Overall, “we had 300 people overnight in shelters,” Kelly said Friday.

On Thursday at a Costco in Superior, Hunt Frye was shopping for soup for his wife when a worker told customers to evacuate. People initially were calm as they left the store, Frye said, but then took off like “antelope, running all over the place.”

“It was pretty scary. It was kind of like a life beyond a dream,” he said. “It was just apocalyptic-feeling.”

As he drove away through the haze,…

Read More:Colorado wildfire: No deaths have been reported. It may be a ‘New Year’s miracle,’