Two fast-moving wildfires driven by strong winds erupted in northern Colorado on Thursday afternoon, destroying close to 600 homes and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee.
At least one first responder and six others were injured, though Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle acknowledged there could be more injuries and deaths could be possible due to the intensity of fires that quickly swept across the region as winds gusted up to 105 mph (169 km/h).
“This is the kind of fire we can’t fight head on,” Pelle said. “We actually had deputy sheriffs and firefighters in areas that had to pull out because they just got overrun.”
The fires, burning to the north and south of the city of Boulder, were fanned by gusts that whipped flames and smoke into a frenzy. Officials said during a Thursday evening news conference that the fires had already blackened 1,600 acres.
The Colorado governor Jared Polis has declared a state of emergency, freeing up disaster emergency funds and providing other resources to aid in the response. During the evening press conference, governor Polis thanked first responders and shared that the National Guard and federal resources were being deployed to aid in the firefight, and would arrive soon. “This fire is not so much a question of resources,” he said. “This fire is a force of nature.”
Emergency call lines were inundated throughout the day and evacuation routes were heavily trafficked, said Pelle during the briefing. “I have never seen anything like it,” he said of the speed and intensity of the fire, which consumed football fields of land in mere seconds. “This was a horrific event.”
Gusts of up to 105 mph whipped up flames, destroying hundreds of homes and prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency