Boulder County fires: More than 500 homes burn, tens of thousands evacuate as fires continue to spread

The fires, known as the Marshall and Middle Fork Fires, set off 40-foot-high flames that engulfed football-pitch-sized expanses of grass within moments, Pelle said. . Before sunset, grass fires spread to nearly 1,600 acres and engulfed more than 500 homes in the town of Superior as they burned near other densely populated suburbs northwest of Denver. , said Pelle.

A winter storm is expected to sweep through the region on Friday, which could bring in humidity that will help teams contain the fires, Pelle said.

Natalie Warady was in a Costco store on New Years Eve when she had to go out.

“I heard the people next to me say, ‘Which way are we going? Which way are we going?’ And then you walked into this tornado of wind, smoke and ash, and you couldn’t see anything. And it was shocking, “she said. Costco employees told people to leave immediately. Warady left his cart and New Year’s treats behind.

Late December wildfires are not unheard of in Colorado, but the cooler fall and winter months meant a break from the state’s peak fire season. Scientists and fire conservationists say climate change, fueled by man-made carbon emissions, has added 78 days to the fire season since the 1970s.

Researchers say warming temperatures, combined with more intense droughts and more people living in areas prone to forest fires, have increased the danger.

Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon. Evacuations have been ordered for several locations in the region. Evacuation centers have been set up at the North Boulder Recreation Center, 3170 Broadway in Boulder; the YMCA of Northern Colorado, 2800 Dagny Way in Lafayette and the Rocky Mountain Christian Church, 9447 Niwot Road in Longmont.

Evacuees positive for COVID are being directed to Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, 3485 Stanford Court in Boulder.

There are several road closures north and south of Boulder as the fires spread. US Highway 36 between Broomfield and Boulder is closed to westbound travelers.

Hart Van Denburg / CPR News
Wildfire flames and smoke rise across the prairies between neighborhoods in Superior, Colorado on Thursday, December 30, 2021.

Evacuation under a dark and smoky sky

Roselyn Adams and her husband evacuated their Louisville home under dark, smoky skies. Adams said the wind was so intense it blew all over their back fence.

“We were trying to get out of Louisville and there were just tree branches all over the road,” Adams said.

Adams said she started to panic and pack a bag after noticing the smoke. She called her husband and he came home from his job in Boulder. Hours later, authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders, so the couple seized the essentials and their two dogs and cat.

Ashes were falling from the sky and covering Adams’ car when she and her husband drove to a friend’s house in nearby Lafayette.

“I know [Lafayette] wasn’t totally out of the woods, but it was the closest place we could get, ”Adams said. “We’re calling our family to let them know we’re okay.

Adams said she could never imagine her neighborhood, just 10 minutes from Boulder, needing to be evacuated due to a wildfire. She said the effects of climate change were on her mind as she fled the flames in December amid a long-term drought and warmer-than-normal temperatures.

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