1,000 homes destroyed, 3 missing after winter wildfire in Colorado

Three people are missing and 1,000 homes were destroyed in this week’s sudden, rare winter fire in Colorado, officials said Saturday.

The windswept wildfire erupted Thursday in and around the communities of Louisville and Superior at the base of the Rocky Mountains. The fire on Saturday had burned 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 corpses to search for the missing, they said.

Investigators are still trying to determine what triggered the outbreak, Sheriff Joe Belle of Boulder County told reporters Saturday. At least seven people were injured, authorities said.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” David Marks said as he stood on a hillside watching the devastation in the Superior below. “Just house after house, fences, just things flying through the air that just burst into flames.”

Cathy Glaab from 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.

Local resident Daniel looks on through the clean remains of his brother's destroyed home in Louisville, Colorado on January 1, 2022.
Local resident Daniel Peers looks through the remains of his brother’s home in Louisville, Colorado, on January 1, 2022.
Photo by AP / Jack Dempsey
The burned parts of the Element Hotel continue to smoke in Louisville, Colorado on January 1, 2022.
Burnt parts of the Element Hotel continue to smoke in Louisville, Colorado, on January 1, 2022.
Photo by AP / Jack Dempsey

“The mailbox is standing,” Glaab said in tears. “So many memories.”

The fire hit even though the area was facing single-digit temperatures and had at least 6 inches of snow on the ground, creating an eerie juxtaposition of smoldering houses in the middle of the frozen winter tableau.

The fire burned nearly 10 square kilometers, but was no longer considered an immediate threat from Saturday, the report said.

The remains of the Element by Westin hotel were seen on Friday, December 31, 2021 in Superior, Colorado.
The devastating wildfires affected communities from Denver to Boulder, a distance of about 30 miles.
Photo by AP / Eugene Garcia
A lone flame flickers with rising smoke at a collapsed house in Superior, Colorado on January 1, 2022.
A lone flame flickers with rising smoke at a collapsed house in Superior, Colorado, on January 1, 2022.
Photo by AP / David Zalubowski
Cathy Glaab, left, cries as she sees what is left of her home, accompanied by her daughter, Laura, in Superior, Colo on Friday, December 31, 2021.
Homeowner Cathy Glaab is crying with her daughter, Laura, after returning to their ruined home in Superior, Colorado, on December 31, 2021.
Photo by AP / Brittany Peterson

Ninety percent of Boulder County is in severe or extreme drought and had not seen significant rainfall since mid-summer, which helped burn the rare fire so late in the year.

President Joe Biden on Friday declared a major disaster in the area and ordered federal aid to be made available to those affected.

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