Colorado Grass Fire Destroys Hundreds of Homes, Displaces Thousands
By Staff, Agencies
A fierce, wind-driven wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes, injured at least a half dozen people, and prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents in and around two towns east of the Rockies near Denver, authorities said on Thursday.
The swiftly spreading prairie grass fire was believed to have been ignited by sparks from power lines and transformers toppled by high winds on Colorado's drought-parched Front Range, according to Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle.
Evacuation orders were first issued for all residents in the town of Superior, Colorado, with a population of about 13,000, and a short time later for the adjacent municipality of Louisville, home to more than 18,000 residents, the Boulder County emergency management office said on Twitter.
Separately, the National Weather Service office in Boulder tweeted: "All Superior under an Evacuation ORDER. LEAVE NOW!"
Within hours, the blaze had swept an estimated 1,600 acres and destroyed more than 500 homes, Pelle told reporters at a news briefing.
He said an entire subdivision of 370 homes went up in flames west of Superior, and that 210 dwellings were lost in the Old Town area of Superior, along with additional residences in the area. Property losses also included a shopping center and hotel in Superior, officials said.
Governor Jared Polis said flames were consuming football fields of landscape in a matter of seconds, calling the conflagration "a force of nature."
The sheriff said gale-force winds made it impossible to halt the fire's rapid advance, adding that fire and emergency personnel were "essentially running ahead of this just trying to get people out of the way. That's all you can do."
Pelle said tens of thousands of area residents were under evacuation orders.
Among the evacuees were a number of patients from Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville who were deemed especially vulnerable to smoke-inhalation, Kevin Massey, a spokesperson for healthcare network Centura Health, told Reuters.