At least 33,000 people in the cities of Superior and Louisville were forced to leave their homes Thursday due to the approaching fires. According to official estimates, nearly 600 homes were set ablaze. “It’s total devastation,” Mayor Clint Folsom told CNN on Friday. “We saw houses explode right in front of our eyes.”
The constant drought and strong winds helped spread the flames. Colorado Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency. Cooler weather and weak winds at least temporarily slowed the spread of the fire Friday morning. The Denver Post said authorities have lifted eviction orders outside of Boulder County.
The Colorado Sun reported that a number of people were treated for burns. In one hospital there were at least six patients.
The Denver Post reported that Patrick Kilbride, 72, of Superior, could save nothing but the clothes that were on his body and his car. He said his house was only “ashes”, and dogs and cats perished. It is a “strange feeling” when one moment one “has everything that makes life interesting” and the next moment “there is nothing left”.
Around the city of Boulder of 108,000 people, about 50 kilometers from Denver, the capital of Colorado, hotels, shopping malls and more than 650 hectares of plants are set ablaze. Resident Patti Holtz said she left her home in the Boulder area feeling terrified. “There are embers everywhere,” she said. “Of course I’m afraid the wind will spread to other houses.”
Winter forest fires are very uncommon in the region. However, Colorado, like much of the western United States, suffers from a drought that has made the region vulnerable to wildfires.
This time, power lines that were overturned by storms ignited a series of smaller fires, which then spread across the dry and dusty landscapes of Boulder County. The winds, whose strength in some places reached more than 160 kilometers per hour, also made it difficult to extinguish the fire, as planes were unable to take off.
Governor Polis justified the emergency declaration by saying that the fire spans 1,600 hectares and threatens suburbs and shops. It is “too destructive”.
Meanwhile, authorities in northern Alaska have warned of “Ecmageddon” (referring to the “Armageddon” word for utter disaster). In doing so, they responded to the sudden appearance of glaciers that blocked the streets in Fairbanks.
Hours earlier, the thermometer on Kodiak Island in southern Alaska reached 19.4 degrees — a historic temperature record for December in the state. There was more rain than in decades, and it froze to the ground when temperatures fell below zero again.
Strange weather combined with snow and rain also caused traffic problems and evacuations in Washington state and California.
Scientists see a connection between increasingly unpredictable extreme weather and man-made climate change. Wildfires and storms are intensifying and causing extensive damage.
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