Colorado Officials Describe Wildfire Devastation, Some Subdivisions 'Totally Gone'

So far there have been no reports of casualties or fatalities from the fire, and one person who was previously missing has been accounted for.

Colorado officials described devastation from wildfires that rapidly swept through several communities Thursday, saying entire subdivisions are “totally gone” and “easily” more than 500 homes were destroyed.

In a press conference Friday, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said there have so far been no reports of casualties or fatalities from the Middle Fork and Marshall fires, and one person who was previously missing has been accounted for. Pelle said damage assessment is still ongoing, and the full scope of the fire’s damage may not be known until late Friday or Saturday.

Fires burn fences in neighborhoods on Dec. 30, 2021 in Superior, Colorado. Multiple homes and businesses were burned from the fast-moving fire stocked by fierce winds, with gusts topping 100 mph.
Fires burn fences in neighborhoods on Dec. 30, 2021 in Superior, Colorado. Multiple homes and businesses were burned from the fast-moving fire stocked by fierce winds, with gusts topping 100 mph.
Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images via Getty Images

Gov. Jared Polis (D), who accompanied the National Guard on an aerial mission to view damage, said he thinks many are “struggling to believe and understand” the speed of the fire and the destruction in urban and suburban areas.

“We talked about houses destroyed, but each house is not just a house, it’s a home. It’s a sanctuary of comfort for those who live there, it’s a reservoir of memories where families were raised,” Polis said.

Polis said the scope of the fires is “unimaginable” and that he’s “grateful” for snowfall in the area.

“This was a disaster in fast-motion, all over the course of half a day,” Polis said, noting many families had only minutes to “get whatever they could, their pets, their kids, into the car and leave.”

Tens of thousands of residents evacuated the towns of Louisville and Superior, which are both southeast of Boulder.

Flames engulf homes as the Marshall Fire spreads through a neighborhood in the town of Superior in Boulder County, Colorado, on Dec. 30, 2021.
Flames engulf homes as the Marshall Fire spreads through a neighborhood in the town of Superior in Boulder County, Colorado, on Dec. 30, 2021.
JASON CONNOLLY via Getty Images

Pelle said some neighborhoods are still blocked off, noting it’s still too dangerous to return but officials would allow residents back in as soon as it’s considered safe. He noted there’s potential water contamination in some communities, and some areas are experiencing issues from downed power lines.

Pelle urged people who want to volunteer to visit coloradoresponds.org instead of self-deploying to the area. He encouraged people who want to make donations to visit the Boulder Office of Emergency Management website.

Polis said he spoke to President Joe Biden, who called Friday morning to offer support to the people of Colorado and verbally approve a disaster declaration. Polis declared a state of emergency Thursday, allowing the state to access special response funds and provide resources from the state’s National Guard and other emergency response teams.

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