US Colorado Marshall Wildfire: At least 1 000 homes and businesses destroyed, two people remain missing and presumed dead
Two people remain missing after the devastating Marshall Wildfire hit the central US state of Colorado. One of the missing was a 91-year-old woman whose family had been trapped by the incoming flames. The wildfire swept through several towns, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands of people to flee. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle had said it was unlikely any of the missing would be found alive. But one person had now been found safe and well. The wildfire burned 6 000 acres across Boulder County, destroying at least 1 000 homes and businesses. About 35 000 people were forced to evacuate the area last week and many families remain in shelters It started under unusually dry conditions and came under control in part because of snowfall.
More than 25cm of snow has fallen on the Boulder area and were hampering efforts to find those missing. However, Colorado officials have found human remains while searching for missing persons related to the wildfire in the Marshall Road area. Authorities said on Wednesday that the remains were found in a home and are likely to be the remains of one of the two people who had gone missing during the fire broke out.
Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team on the Marshall Fire stated, “Damaged or destroyed structures exist throughout the affected area. Emergency response personnel continue to work within the fire area to mitigate hazards and provide safe access. Residents should expect to see smoke, smouldering material and pockets of open flame where structures have been destroyed. If previously undamaged structures become impacted, please call 911. As residents are returning to homes, trees and some structures may be unstable and pose a hazard for those working and living in affected areas. Please be cautious of surroundings as hazards may be present that did not exist prior to the fire.”
The report added, “Current situation: With the Marshall Fire remaining 6 026 acres and 100 percent of the perimeter contained, the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team is beginning to transition management of the incident back to local authorities, with full transition planned for Friday evening.”
Areas of "significant" heat still exist around some structures, the he incident management team said. "These heat sources can flare up and may be visible especially at night. It will take fire fighters some time to methodically go around each structure to ensure that they are out and pose no hazard to the fire perimeter or adjacent unburned structures."
Hardest hit were the towns of Louisville and Superior, which have a combined population of 34 000.
Thousands of Coloradoans are still without gas, said Alice Jackson, Xcel Energy's president.13 000 homes or businesses had their gas turned off on Thursday and 11 600 are still without it as of Sunday, she said.
Residents hit by the wildfire are coming to terms with what happened, in some cases returning home to find complete destruction. "I feel like I made it out with my life and that's I think the most important thing," Jessi Delaplain, who lost her home to the fire. "I gathered myself and I gathered my cats which was no easy feat to stuff them into the car. And I pulled out of the driveway and there were flames surrounding us."
The cause of the wildfire is being investigated. The search is focused on an area where a bypasser recorded a video of a burning shed on 30 December 2021, the day the Marshall Fire broke out, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said at a news briefing Monday. Experts from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the US Forest Services are participating in the investigation. Pelle said the residual heat from the fire, coupled with debris and a recent snowstorm, has made the investigation more difficult. “The scenes are still hot, deep in debris, hot debris, covered in snow," he said.
Climate change increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that is likely to fuel wildfires and experts say that fires in western North America have grown more intense in recent years.
Sources: BBC, Accuweather