Colorado officials described devastation from forest fires that quickly swept through several communities Thursday, saying entire subdivisions are “completely gone,” and “easily” more than 500 homes were destroyed.
At a news conference Friday, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said there have been no reports of injuries or deaths from the Middle Fork and Marshall fires so far, and a person who was previously missing has been accounted for. Pelle said the damage assessment is still ongoing and the full extent of the fire’s damage may not be known until late Friday or Saturday.
Governor Jared Polis (D), who accompanied the National Guard on an air mission to see damage, said he believes many “struggle to believe and understand” the rate of fire and destruction in cities and suburbs.
“We talked about ruined houses, but every house is not just a house, it is a home. It is a haven of comfort for those who live there, it is a reservoir of memories where families were raised,” Polis said.
Police said the extent of the fires is “unimaginable” and that he is “grateful” for snowfall in the area.
“This was a disaster in fast-motion in half a day,” Polis said, noting that many families only had a few minutes to “get what they could, their pets, their children, into the car and walk.” “
Tens of thousands of residents evacuated the cities of Louisville and Superior, both of which are located southeast of Boulder.
Pelle said some neighborhoods are still cordoned off, noting that it is still too dangerous to return, but officials will allow residents to return as soon as it is considered safe. He noted that there is potential water pollution in some communities and some areas are experiencing problems from broken power lines.
Pelle encouraged people who want to volunteer to visit coloradoresponds.org instead of self-posting to the area. He encouraged people who want to make donations to visit the Boulder Office of Emergency Management website.
Police said he spoke with President Joe Biden, who called Friday morning to offer support to the people of Colorado and orally approve a disaster declaration. Police declared a state of emergency on Thursday, allowing the state to access special means of intervention and provide resources from the state National Guard and other emergency response teams.