Rare, wind-driven wildfires destroyed an estimated 580 homes, a hotel, and a shopping center in the Denver area on Thursday as the fast-moving flames displaced thousands of people and became the most destructive fire in Colorado history. At least one first responder and six other people were injured by the Marshall Fire that began outside Denver on Thursday morning and forced around 35,000 people to evacuate from their homes. Although it remains unclear how the fires started, officials said at least a few of them appear to have started when strong winds toppled power lines and transformers. The fires, which comes unusually late in the year, took place as the area has been suffering from unusually dry conditions and nearly no snow in the winter.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle warned there could be more injuries and even deaths reported because of the intensity of the flames that burned through an estimated 1,600 acres. “I’d like to emphasize that due to the magnitude of this fire, the intensity of this fire, and its presence in such a heavily populated area, we would not be surprised if there are injuries or fatalities,” Pelle said. The fires led to evacuation orders for all residents in the town of Superior, which is home to some 13,000 people, and then for neighboring Louisville, which has more than 18,000 residents. “I’ve never seen anything like it, and we’ve had a lot of fires,” Pelle said. “This is a horrific event.”
The mayor of Superior described his shock at how much the town was destroyed by the flames. “I spent a couple of hours yesterday driving around in the afternoon with the sheriff’s office and town manager just making an assessment of the situation there on the ground and it’s grave,” Clint Folsom, the mayor of Superior, said. “It’s nothing like I would have ever imagined would have happened.” He also expressed concern about what emergency responders might find when they start going through homes that burned quickly. “I hope we don’t have fatalities,” he said.