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Colorado fire destroys hundreds of homes

'Unbelievable': video shows people inside historic windstorm
01:48

What we covered here

  • At least 500 homes were destroyed after wind-fueled wildfires swept through parts of Boulder County, Colorado, and forced tens of thousands of residents from their homes.
  • Residents had just minutes to escape as the fast-moving flames approached. There were no reports of fatalities, and authorities continue to investigate what caused the wildfire.
  • Diminishing winds and snowfall should improve fire conditions, officials said.

Our live coverage has ended. Read more about the response and recovery efforts below.

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

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.”

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

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.

Wildfire not expected to grow past 6,000 acres

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.

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

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. 

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

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.

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.

How to help the victims of Colorado's wildfires

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.

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

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.

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. 

Colorado governor says he spoke with President Biden about wildfires

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he spoke with President Biden, who offered his support to residents affected by devastating wildfires in the state.

Biden gave verbal authorization for an expedited major disaster declaration, Polis said, and that will be finalized in the next few hours.

“They won’t have to wait for the preliminary damage assessment for housing and small business assistance. So that will be forthcoming very soon, because of this disaster and the actions that the President took. And the President send his regards to the people of Colorado and those who are directly impacted,” Polis said.

At least 500 homes lost in Colorado wildfires, Boulder County sheriff says

Boulder County, Colorado, Sheriff Joe Pelle said he expects about 500 or more homes were destroyed in the fast-spreading wildfires that started Thursday.

There are 2,000 homes in the burn area, he said during a news conference, and entire subdivisions have been devastated by fire.

Damage assessment is continuing today, he said.

Snow falling today will help conditions, he said, as 3-6 inches in total are expected.

Approximately 35,000 people are evacuated because of the Marshall Fire, Boulder official says 

Approximately 35,000 people in Colorado have been evacuated in Superior, southwest Boulder County, and Louisville due to the Marshall Fire, the Boulder Incident Management Team’s Michelle Kelly told CNN affiliate KUSA in an interview this morning. 

“It is two entire communities directly impacted by this fire, and it will take them some time to recuperate,” Kelly said.  

The fire, fueled by hurricane-force winds, burned about 1,600 acres in Boulder County within hours on Thursday.

Marshall Fire grew to 6,200 acres overnight, official says

Flames engulf homes as the Marshall Fire spreads through a neighborhood in the town of Superior in Boulder County, Colorado on December 30.

The Boulder-area Marshall Fire grew to 6,200 acres overnight, Michelle Kelly of the Boulder Incident Management Team told CNN affiliate KUSA in an on-camera interview this morning.

“We had 300 people overnight in shelters,” she said, and approximately 500 homes are impacted.

“We do still have active burning within the fire perimeter both in the communities of Superior and Louisville,” Kelly said. 

Colorado mayors describe wildfire devastation: Houses were "exploding right before our eyes"

The mayors of two Colorado towns said wind-fueled wildfires devastated areas of their communities after residents scrambled to evacuate Thursday.

“We just witnessed incredible devastation around the town, and then also witnessed houses just exploding right before our eyes. It was one of the most disturbing situations I have ever been in,” said Mayor Clint Folsom of Superior, Colorado.

About 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, according to authorities.

Folsom said evacuations had to happen within minutes.

“High windstorm events are not unusual in the Colorado winters in the front range and in other parts of the state. We have certainly had winds like this, although something of this strength was definitely out of the norm. I guess this was always a fear, you know, you would see dry grasses in the great open spaces that we have next to us, and, you know, we all cherish that space for views and hiking and biking trails, but when it gets so dry and then you combine that with wind and some fire, it just becomes a tragic recipe,” he said.  

Mayor Ashley Stolzmann of Louisville, Colorado, said the official cause of the fires has not been determined but the early projection is due to downed power lines.

No deaths or missing people were reported immediately, and Stolzmann said emergency teams will be going through the town to locate residents.

Fast-moving Colorado fire was "upon people in a matter of minutes," reporter says

The fires that burned more than 1,600 acres in Colorado were a “nightmare scenario,” Jesse Aaron Paul, a reporter with The Colorado Sun, told CNN.

“We don’t see wildfires that come through a suburban-type neighborhood. … I think this isn’t something anybody could’ve imagined that would even have happened,” Paul said.

“As the sun comes up and more images start to come out, this is going to be really hard today,” he said.

Thousands of families were evacuated quickly Thursday as hurricane-force winds descended upon the area.

Paul described what the scene was like as the fires unfolded: “It was really frantic and chaotic. These things just move so quickly, and it is hard to kind of comprehend 115-mile-per-hour winds. I was standing out in Boulder yesterday and it was pushing me over. I never experienced anything quite that bad in Colorado. We get high winds, but nothing like that. It was moving so quickly. … It was moving miles really quickly, just didn’t seem like such a bad fire, and then all of a sudden, it was just kind of upon people in a matter of minutes.”

Evacuation orders lifted for Broomfield, Colorado

Smoke and haze fills the sky due to fast moving wildfires in the area on December 30, in Broomfield, Colorado.

All mandatory evacuation and pre-evacuation orders have been lifted in the city of Broomfield, Colorado, according to the city’s police department

CNN previously reported that the Broomfield Detention Center was evacuated overnight due to the Marshall Fire.

The wind-driven fire has destroyed hundreds of structures and forced thousands of people to be evacuated in areas near Boulder.

University of Colorado football coach loses home in wildfire

University of Colorado Assistant Football Coach Mark Smith said his family lost “every material possession” in a wildfire that swept through Boulder County Thursday. 

“Our home, cars, and everything we had in our home lost to the fires that ripped through our community. Thank you to those who reached out. Processing how to completely start over and grateful for our health,” Smith tweeted.

Smith was in his first year of coaching at the university, according to the university’s website. He became the university’s inside linebackers coach in February and previously worked at Long Island University in New York.

The University of Colorado, Boulder tweeted they “are heartbroken to see Thursday’s fires impact so many people in our region, likely including hundreds of CU Boulder faculty, staff and students.”

CNN Sports has reached out to the CU Buffs for comment but did not immediately hear back.  

Boulder County officials are asking residents to stay out of evacuation zones

The Boulder Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is asking residents with property in the evacuation zones to continue to stay away from the area.

In a news update last night, Boulder OEM said, “First responders are working non-stop to keep everyone safe, even as they don’t know the status of their own homes in the area. No one will be allowed in the evacuated areas overnight. Please be patient as we do our best to protect everyone’s safety. The recovery process will be a long one, but we will get through this together one step at a time.”

The Boulder OEM information call center will reopen at 11 a.m. ET and the office is expected to hold a news conference at 12 p.m. ET today to provide an update on the wildfires. 

The fast-moving wildfire began Thursday morning in Boulder County, burning hundreds of homes and forcing some 30,000 people across two communities to flee their homes.

Cold front producing snow moves into Boulder-area

A cold front “producing a heavier band of snowfall” has moved into the region where the Marshall Fire is burning, according to the National Weather Service office in Boulder.

“A cold front has moved into far northern Colorado this morning and it is helping to produce a heavier band of snowfall across the northern foothills. Widespread snow showers are ongoing across the mountains and high valleys despite the radar not being able to pick them up,” the weather service tweeted.

There is no way to attack Boulder fires head on, former fire chief says

Former Boulder, Colorado, Mayor Sam Weaver, who was also the former fire chief of Sugarloaf, told CNN’s New Day the fast-growing wildfires are challenging to contain head on.

“There is no way to be in front of a flame front like this,” he said about the fires.

“There is no way to attack it unless you have bulldozers that can dig a line that’s really wide because the really high wind speeds were driving embers and other flames forward so quickly that you had things, like the grass fire was moving really fast that got into trees near homes, you would see crowning. There is no way to attack it head on that’s absolutely true and even from the sides, you have to be careful with the swirling winds that are nearby,” Weaver said.

Weaver said his brother’s home is in the affected area and as the flames got closer, he helped load animals into trailers and pulled out photo albums and a computer from the home.

“By the time we left, say around 4 o’clock, the flames were a few hundred yards away, maybe 300 to 400 yards away and so we had to leave,” Weaver said. “We hope the house is OK, but have no word yet today.”

Weaver said that even though snow is on the way, if it falls too quickly it can further damage homes.

Hundreds of Colorado homes lost in fast-growing wildfires

Flames engulf homes as the Marshall Fire spreads through a neighborhood in Boulder County, Colorado on December 30.

Hundreds of homes have been lost after two wildfires started and grew quickly 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 in the state 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 Pelle said it was attacked quickly and “laid down.” Authorities were keeping an eye on it, the sheriff added.

There were no immediate reports of civilian casualties or missing people, Pelle said. One law enforcement officer suffered a minor eye injury from blowing debris.

“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,” he added.

Read more here.

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With little time to get out, hundreds of Colorado residents lose their homes in a ferocious wildfire
Hundreds of Colorado homes lost and tens of thousands of residents told to evacuate due to fast-growing wildfires

READ MORE

With little time to get out, hundreds of Colorado residents lose their homes in a ferocious wildfire
Hundreds of Colorado homes lost and tens of thousands of residents told to evacuate due to fast-growing wildfires