Colorado: Hundreds of homes destroyed, thousands ordered to evacuate after wildfires grow quickly

Hundreds of homes have been lost after two wildfires started and grew quickly on Thursday as high winds whipped through the Front Range in Colorado, forcing tens of thousands of residents from their homes, the Boulder County sheriff said.

Sheriff Joe Pelle estimated 580 homes or other structures in and around Superior may have been lost.

A shopping center and a hotel in Superior also were engulfed by the flames.

“Historic” 80-100 mph winds, with gusts as high as 115 mph, fed the wildfires that injured at least six people, prompted a hospital to send patients elsewhere and forced the evacuation of Superior and Louisville near Boulder.

The Marshall Fire had burned at least 1,600 acres and had spread east across Superior and Louisville, the sheriff said. The other fire is known as the Middle Fork Fire, but there were no details about its size.

There currently are no reports of casualties or missing people, Pelle said.

“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.”

Governor Jared Polis, who declared a state of emergency for the area, said the flames were traveling the length of a football field in just seconds.

“Very little time to get out, very little time to even get the most important parts of your life and, yes, it’ll be a difficult process for Colorado families who are directly affected to rebuild their lives,” he said.

Louisville and Superior are about 4 miles apart, not far from Boulder.

The US Census Bureau says Louisville has about 21,000 residents and Superior has 13,000.

“We are in the midst of a truly historic windstorm across the front range, foothills and urban corridor,” said the National Weather Service office in Boulder.

Combined with relative humidity below 20% and ongoing drought conditions, the extreme winds are fueling rapid fire spread.

County residents have been asked to evacuate if they see flames from one of multiple wildland fires.

In addition to quickly spreading fires, these strong winds likely will blow down trees and power lines, which could lead to widespread power outages and difficult travel.