According to NBC, hundreds of homes burned and tens of thousands of people were evacuated after a rare wind-driven wildfire tore through suburban neighborhoods in Colorado on Thursday, authorities said.
Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency in the area, calling the blaze — which ballooned to 1,600 acres in a few hours amid 100-mph winds — “absolutely devastating.”
After toppled power lines started the grass fire around 11 a.m. south of Boulder, the flames quickly spread through the towns of Louisville and Superior, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said during a news conference.
“This was consuming football field lengths of land in seconds,” Pelle said. “This was a horrific event.”
No deaths or missing persons had been reported, though he said he wouldn’t be “surprised if we find casualties.” One police officer was injured by flying debris, he said.
By 5 p.m., the fire had incinerated an entire subdivision of 370 homes in Superior and likely destroyed another 210 homes in the community’s old town neighborhood, he said. A hotel burned, a shopping center was in flames and the blaze was blocks from a hospital.
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist and extreme weather expert at UCLA, said it was “genuinely hard to believe this is happening in late December in Boulder.”
But a combination of events — a downslope windstorm with 100-mph blasts and a fall that saw record heat and just 1 inch of snow — prompted fires that Swain called “extremely fast moving” and “dangerous.”
High wind warnings were canceled Thursday night, the National Weather Service said. Emergency management officials warned residents not to try and return to the area.