Three people missing, feared dead from massive Colorado forest fires


DENVER, Jan.1 (Reuters) – Three people go missing and fear death after a wind-powered wildfire roared through two towns in Boulder County, Colo., Causing thousands of evacuations and destroying nearly 1,000 homes, authorities said on Saturday.

Officials initially said there were no reports of deaths or missing residents as a result of the rare urban wildfire that broke out Thursday morning on the northern outskirts of metro Denver.

Wind gusts exceeding 100 miles per hour (160 km / h) pushed the flames eastward in the towns of Superior and Louisville, causing the evacuation of the two communities.

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In about two hours, the blaze had burned 6,000 acres, officials said.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said the three missing people, whom he declined to identify, all lived in homes consumed by the blaze.

A view shows the remains of homes destroyed by the Marshall Fire in Louisville, Colorado, the United States on December 31, 2021. REUTERS / Alyson McClaran

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“The structures where these people are said to be are completely destroyed and covered with about eight inches of snow,” Pelle told a press briefing on Saturday, adding that cadaver dogs would be deployed on Sunday to search homes.

Pelle said 991 homes in Superior, Louisville and the unincorporated parts of the county were destroyed, making it the most destructive wildfire in state history in terms of homes lost.

Officials initially said sparks from fallen power lines that were blown over by high winds could have started the blaze, but an inspection by utility company Xcel Energy found no damaged or fallen lines near the suspected origin of the fire.

Pelle said detectives were investigating all leads to determine what started the fire. Acting on a tip, the sheriff said a search warrant had been issued as part of the investigation, but declined to provide details.

US President Joe Biden has declared the scene a national disaster, freeing up federal funds to help affected people and businesses in recovery efforts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.

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Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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