Colorado officials said that it was a “miracle” that no deaths were reported in an unprecedented urban wildfire that moved at breakneck speeds across towns north of Denver, destroying upward of 1000 homes.
The fire was driven by wind gusts of 169 kilometres per hour, which caused flames to leapfrog over highways and entire neighborhoods on Thursday, authorities said.
The winds created a “mosaic” burn pattern that saw untouched homes standing next to those left in ashes.
Officials said on Friday that winds had died down and snow was arriving, and that they did not expect the fire to pose any more danger.
The blaze swept through about 2400 hectares in just a couple of hours, destroyed at least 500 homes and may have burned down up to 1000, authorities said.
Six people were treated for injuries on Thursday and the blaze is largely contained, with just a few smoldering points.
“We might have our very own New Year’s miracle on our hands, if it holds up that there was no loss of life,” Governor Jared Polis said during a press briefing.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said at the same briefing that no fatalities were reported so far and nobody was missing.
Polis said he had spoken to US President Joe Biden, who had verbally approved a major disaster declaration to help people quickly receive financial help following the fire.
The wildfire injured at least a half dozen people and prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents in and around two towns east of the Rockies near Denver on Thursday. The origin of the wildfires was not confirmed but was suspected to be power lines, officials said.
Evacuation orders were first issued for all residents in the town of Superior, Colorado, with a population of about 13,000, and a short time later for the adjacent municipality of Louisville, home to more than 18,000 residents.
An entire subdivision of 370 homes went up in flames west of Superior, and 210 dwellings were lost in the Old Town area of Superior, along with additional residences in the area.
Property losses also included a shopping center and hotel in Superior, officials said.
Six people were treated for injuries from the wildfires at the UCHealth hospital in nearby Broomfield, spokesperson Kelli Christensen said on Thursday.
She declined to specify the nature of the injuries or the patients’ conditions.