Colorado fire destroys hundreds of homes

By Adrienne Vogt and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 4:14 p.m. ET, December 31, 2021
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4:14 p.m. ET, December 31, 2021

White House: Biden assured Colorado governor "every effort will be made to provide immediate help"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden spoke Friday morning with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis following the wildfires that impacted his state, the White House said.

“Governor Polis described the impacts and the need for additional Federal support, and the President assured him that every effort will be made to provide immediate help to people in the impacted communities,” a readout from the White House said, adding that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working to “surge assistance.”

The statement continued, “Fortunately, snowfall will help bring an end to the fires, and recovery efforts can get underway. The President is grateful to all of the first responders who have come to the aid of Colorado communities and families impacted by the fires.”

Later Friday following a New Year’s Eve lunch in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden told reporters he “may very well” visit Colorado after wildfires in the state.

At a news conference on Friday, Polis said that Biden “offered his support for the people of Colorado. … The President approved the expedited major disaster declaration and that'll be finalized and papered in the next couple hours.”

4:12 p.m. ET, December 31, 2021

Boulder's emergency office says no downed power lines found near fire ignition area

From CNN’s Raja Razek

As wildfire swept through communities in Colorado, initial reports of the fire were from residents who claimed to have seen downed power lines in or near the ignition area. However, according to the Boulder Office of Emergency Management (OEM), Xcel Energy "found no downed power lines."

"Xcel Energy has been a very responsive and invaluable partner. At this point, they have inspected all of their lines within the ignition area and found no downed power lines," Boulder OEM said in a news release.

"They did find some compromised communication lines that may have been misidentified as power lines. Typically, communications lines (telephone, cable, internet, etc.) would not be the cause of a fire," the release added. 

The wildfire began Thursday morning and swallowed at least 1,600 acres in a matter of hours, prompting orders for people across two communities to evacuate. Some 370 homes were destroyed in a single subdivision just west of the town of Superior, while another 210 homes may have been lost in Old Town Superior, the Boulder County sheriff said Thursday.

An investigation into the fire is ongoing, the release said.

1:55 p.m. ET, December 31, 2021

Wildfire not expected to grow past 6,000 acres

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

(David Zalubowski/AP)
(David Zalubowski/AP)

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said that because the snow has started, they don’t expect any “substantial additional damage” from the wildfire.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said officials updated the total area burned by the fire to 6,000 acres after they flew over the affected area.

“There's still areas burning inside the fire zone around homes and shrubbery and that kind of thing, but we're not expecting to see any growth in the fire. I think we are pretty well contained except for what’s happening inside the fire zone,” Pelle said.

1:27 p.m. ET, December 31, 2021

Sheriff: Investigation still ongoing, but downed power lines suspected to have caused wildfire

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said there were power lines down where the Marshall Fire started.

“The origin of the fire hasn’t been confirmed. It's suspected to be power lines but we are investigating that today and we have folks on the ground as we speak trying to pinpoint that cause,” Pelle said

About 15,000 customers had no power early Friday in Colorado, most of them in Boulder County.

What we know so far: The wildfire swallowed 1,600 acres in a matter of hours, burning hundreds of homes and prompting orders for some 30,000 people across two communities to evacuate.

Some 370 homes were destroyed in a single subdivision just west of the town of Superior, while another 210 homes may have been lost in Old Town Superior, the Boulder County sheriff said Thursday. No deaths or missing people were reported immediately.

CNN's Christina Maxouris and Dakin Andone contributed reporting to this post. 

1:00 p.m. ET, December 31, 2021

Wildfire "was a disaster in fast motion," Colorado governor says

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham

(Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
(Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he is grateful snow has started falling in the Boulder County region because he saw areas with active flames burning during an aerial reconnaissance mission Friday morning.

“As the sheriff indicated, there's neighborhoods where, because of the nature of the fire spread by gusts of up to 105 miles an hour, it would spread to a house here or there, over other houses, past other streets — very unusual burn pattern, and the other unusual factor is just in the blink of an eye,” Polis said.

“This was a disaster in fast motion all over the course of half a day, nearly all the damage. Many families having minutes – minutes –  to get whatever they could, their pets, their kids, into the car and leave. The last 24 hours have been devastating, it’s really unimaginable. It's hard to speak about," the governor added.

12:50 p.m. ET, December 31, 2021

Sheriff: There is still active fire in some areas, making it too dangerous for people to return to homes

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said authorities still saw some active fire this morning as they surveyed impacted areas, and are asking residents not to return to their homes at this time.

"I know residents want to get back to their homes as soon as possible to assess damage. In many of those neighborhoods that are currently blocked off, it's still too dangerous to return, we saw still active fire in many places this morning, and we saw downed power lines, we saw a lot of risk that we are still trying mitigate," the sheriff said in a news conference Friday.

"As soon as residents are able to get back, we are going to let them back, that is our goal. We don't want to keep people out of their neighborhoods or their homes," he said.

Authorities said at least 500 homes are expected to be lost as a result of the fast-moving fires.

12:40 p.m. ET, December 31, 2021

How to help the victims of Colorado's wildfires

From CNN's Ben Burnstein and Lindsay Benson

(Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
(Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

With nothing but the clothes on their backs, thousands of people in north-central Colorado fled their houses as intense fires bore down. The fires have displaced entire communities, and aid groups are busy providing help.

Here's how to give or receive help:

If you need help: People needing assistance can reach Boulder County's emergency call center at (303) 413 7730.

If you can give help: The Boulder Office of Emergency Management is asking people who want to offer shelter to sign up with Airbnb's Open Homes Program. Airbnb will then reach out to those in need.

You can also donate to vetted organizations working to support the fire victims by clicking here.

12:33 p.m. ET, December 31, 2021

Boil water advisory extended to Boulder County's town of Superior

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

A boil water advisory remains in place for Louisville and has been extended to the town of Superior because water pressure was lost in those communities, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said in a news conference Friday.

The wind-fueled Marshall Fire “burned in an interesting dynamic with mosaics,” Pelle said.

“You can see the how the wind and the topography drove that fire in certain directions, devastated some neighborhoods and some blocks and left neighbors standing intact,” he said.

12:21 p.m. ET, December 31, 2021

No reported fatalities from Colorado wildfires at this time, officials say

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said there are no reported fatalities at this time after ferocious fires spread in the Boulder area.

"We may have our own New Year's miracle on our hands if it holds up that there was no loss of life," Polis told reporters in a news conference.

"We know that many people had just minutes to evacuate, and if that was successfully pulled off by all the affected families, that is really quite the testimony to preparedness and emergency response," Polis said. 

Polis said two major hospitals in the area and schools also seemed to be spared.

The sheriff noted that one person had been reported missing and has now been accounted for.

Damage assessments are currently in progress and final numbers aren’t expected before late today or tomorrow, the sheriff said.