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Hundreds of homes destroyed and thousands evacuated due to fires in Colorado

(CNN) – Hundreds of homes were lost after wildfires raged and increased rapidly in Colorado Thursday, the Boulder County sheriff said, as high winds blew through the area, forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee their homes.

About 35,000 Colorado people were evacuated in Superior, southwest Boulder County and Louisville due to the Marshall Fire, Boulder Incident Management Team’s Michelle Kelly told CNN’s COSA in an interview this morning.

“They’re two entire communities directly affected by this fire, and it’s going to take some time for them to recover,” Kelly said.

The fire, fueled by hurricane winds, burned about 2,500 acres in Boulder County within a few hours Thursday.

On Thursday, the authorities said that “historic” winds reached 123-160 km/h in the area.

A UCHealth spokesperson told CNN that at least six people are being treated for injuries related to one of the fires. Kelly Christensen said there was no other information available on the patients at UCHealth Broomfield.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Bailey said there were no reports of deaths in the Marshall Fire and that only one person had been reported missing.

There are about 2,000 homes in the burned area, Bailey said, and officials expect to lose 500 homes or more.

Sheriff said damage assessments are currently underway and he does not expect final numbers to appear before today or tomorrow.

The cities of Louisville and Superior are about four miles away, not far from the city of Boulder.

“If you’re in the area, act fast,” the Boulder County Office of Emergency Management wrote on Twitter to Louisville residents.

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The US Census Bureau says Louisville has a population of about 21,000, while Louisville has a population of about 13,000.

“The Boulder OEM gets a lot of calls about residents who’ve seen a fire. If you see a fire, leave. Go east, go north, but leave immediately. More information through OEM channels,” it reads at Tweet From the Boulder Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

The National Weather Service described the situation as “life threatening” in the Superior and Louisville areas.

Two homes burn after a wildfire engulfs them in the Centennial Heights neighborhood on December 30, 2021 in Louisville, Colorado. (Image source: Marc Piscotty / Getty Images)

“The situation is rapidly life threatening in the Superior and Louisville areas! There are fast-moving fires in the area. “Gather more information and be prepared to evacuate immediately,” the agency said on its NWS Boulder Twitter account.

One fire, called the Middle Fork Fire, is north of Boulder City, according to Boulder OEM, and the other fire, the Marshall Fire, is south of the city.

The #MiddleForkFire and #MarshallFire evacuation points are located at South Boulder Rec Center (1360 Gillaspie Dr, Boulder) and Longmont Senior Center (910 Longs Peak Ave, Longmont), the OEM tweeted.

People are being asked to avoid the area of ​​Highway 93 and CR 170 where there is road closure, according to the OEM.

The authorities said that houses had exploded due to the fire

CNN’s Amara Walker interviewed Chief Mayor Clint Folsom and Louisville Mayor Ashley Stolzman about the wildfires that ravaged their communities Thursday.

“It’s total devastation,” Folsom told CNN. “I was able to take a tour of the area last night with the city manager and the sheriff’s sergeant and we witnessed incredible devastation around the city and then we also saw houses exploding right in front of our eyes. It was one of the most disturbing situations I have ever encountered.”

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He said people have minutes to evacuate due to the unprecedented winds.

“This tragedy touches everyone in our community,” Stoltzmann-Locker said.

Stolzmann said that while the official cause of the bushfires has yet to be determined, one of the first assumptions is that it was caused by downed power lines.

‘A truly historic windstorm’

“We’re in the midst of a truly historic windstorm across the front, hills and urban corridor,” the National Weather Service said in Boulder, Colorado.

A West Metro firefighter monitors the damage after a fast-spreading wildfire burns through the area in the Centennial Heights neighborhood of Louisville, Colorado, on December 30, 2021 (Credit: Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

Attributable to “exceptional amplification of mountain waves,” which refers to a significant increase in wind speed as air flows over mountains to lower elevations in and around Boulder, which can occur in very particular weather conditions. .

Large-scale gusts of up to 123-160 km/h were observed, NWS reported, and “a handful of sites in Rocky Flats experienced several hours of 160-185 km/h gusts.”

High winds, combined with a relative humidity of less than 20%, are rapidly increasing the spread of fire, even in the urban areas of Superior and Louisville.

Peak winds should occur now and the NWS says high-resolution modeling shows “a rapid retreat of the strongest winds to the hillsides in the next two hours.” At dusk, the wind should drop even more.

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