The official says the three missing people all lived in houses consumed by the wind-blown urban fire.
Three people are missing and are feared to die after a wildfire caused by the wind swept through two cities in the US state of Colorado, causing thousands of evacuations and destroying nearly 1,000 homes.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said Saturday that the three missing people, who did not want to be identified, all lived in houses that were consumed by the fire.
“The structures where these people would be are completely destroyed,” Pelle told a news conference.
Officials initially said there were no reports of fatalities or missing residents following the rare urban fire that broke out Thursday morning on the northern outskirts of the Denver metropolitan area.
Wind gusts of more than 100 miles per hour (160 km / h) pushed the flames eastward into the cities of Superior and Louisville, causing both communities to evacuate.
In about two hours, the fire had burned 6,000 acres, officials said.
Pelle said the bodies of corpses will be deployed on Sunday to search for the missing. But the task is complicated by the remains of destroyed structures covered by 20 centimeters (8 inches) of snow poured by a storm during the night, he said.
At least seven people were also injured in the blaze.
Pelle also said 991 homes have been destroyed in Superior, Louisville and unincorporated parts of the county, making it the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history in terms of lost homes.
Officials initially said sparks from fallen power lines that were blown down by high winds could have caused the fire, but an inspection by utility company Xcel Energy found no damaged or fallen lines near the site. origin of the fire.
Pelle said detectives are investigating all avenues to determine what ignited the conflagration.
Acting on a clue, the sheriff said a search warrant was issued in connection with the investigation, but declined to provide any details.
U.S. President Joe Biden has declared the scene a national disaster, releasing federal funds to help people and businesses affected in recovery efforts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.
On Saturday in Boulder County, snow and single-digit temperatures gave a strange scene amid remnants of still-smoking houses. The smell of smoke still permeated the empty streets as utility teams struggled to restore electricity and gas service to the homes that survived.
Dozens of people lined up to get heaters, bottled water and blankets donated to Red Cross shelters.
“It’s bittersweet because we have a home, but our friends don’t. And our neighbors don’t, “said Louisville resident Judy Givens as she grabbed a heater with her husband.” We thought 2022 might be better. And then we had omicrons. And now we have that, and it’s not starting well. “
Meanwhile, others walked through the snow to determine the condition of their homes and take their belongings.
Viliam Klein bowed in pain when she first saw the ruins of her 100-year-old home in Superior on Saturday. The smoke rose from the snow-covered ashes; a few neighbors passed by, taking what they could from their own destroyed houses.
“Right now I’m sincerely overwhelmed and I can’t hear much anymore,” Klein said.
The forest fire broke out unusually at the end of the year, after an extremely dry autumn and in the middle of an almost snowless winter until the night snowfall. Strong winds pushed flames that fed on dry grass and vegetation such as the bones of farmland and open spaces interspersed with suburban subdivisions.
Scientists say climate change is making the climate more extreme and forest fires more frequent and destructive.
Ninety percent of Boulder County is in severe or extreme drought and has not seen substantial rainfall since mid-summer. Denver set a record number of consecutive days without snow before a small storm occurred on Dec. 10, its last snowfall before wildfires erupted.
“It didn’t snow all winter in 2021. It’s not uncommon for everything to go like a blaze,” Klein said.