What you need to know about the destructive Marshall fire in Colorado


Homes burn as a forest fire tears apart a development near Rock Creek Village on Thursday, December 30, 2021, near Broomfield, Colorado. An estimated 580 homes, a hotel and a shopping center burned down and tens of thousands of people were blown away – fueled wildfires outside Denver, officials said.


The Marshall, Colorado fire that ravaged the Front Range between Denver and Boulder on Thursday, December 30, is now the most destructive wildfire in state history, officials say.

Fueled by high winds and dry conditions, the event, involving two separate fires, forced tens of thousands of residents to flee their homes as the flames spread rapidly eastward through the towns of Superior and Louisville in Boulder County.

Governor Jared Polis said a emergency state Dec. 30, opening disaster emergency funds to support response efforts and resources needed to put out the blaze, including the Colorado National Guard, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and the activation of the State Emergency Operations Center.

The first blaze, called Middle Fork Fire, broke out at the intersection of North Foothills Highway and Middle Fork Road just before 10:30 a.m. and “was attacked fairly quickly,” Boulder County Sheriff Joe said on Dec. 30. Excavator, during a press conference. No structures were reported damaged as a result of this event.

The Marshall Fire, the second to start, broke out just after 11 a.m. in South Foothills and Marshall Road, spreading rapidly eastward over 6,000 acres.

Some areas remain under a evacuation order from Friday morning December 31 as snow began to fall in the area. Authorities said during a Friday press conference that weather conditions suggest the fire is no longer expected to negatively impact the region.

Authorities are warning residents on Facebook to avoid areas being evacuated due to active fires and risks.

Colorado experienced the three biggest wildfires in state history, the first two burning near or over 200,000 acres of land. Although the Marshall fire only covered 1,600 acres, it attacked a densely populated area, making it the most destructive to date.

“So 1,600 acres near a population center can be, and in this case are, absolutely devastating,” Polis said at the Dec. 30 press conference. “[Wind] gusts of 100 to 110 mph can and have moved this fire across a football field in seconds, “giving residents” very little time to get out “and collect important items from their homes.

Here is an overview of what the devastation looks like.

Did the Marshall fire cause injury or death?

Pelle noted that there was only one eye injury to an officer due to debris flying in the wind on the evening of December 30.

Another one six people were injured through Friday morning December 31, The Associated Press reported.

“I would like to stress that due to the scale of this fire, its intensity and its presence in such a populated area, we would not be surprised if there were any injuries or deaths,” Pelle said. Thursday evening.

As of 10 a.m. on Friday, no one had been reported missing, authorities said at the Dec.31 press conference. A woman reported missing Thursday evening has been found.

“It’s amazing when you look at the devastation that we don’t have a list of” missing people, “Pelle said.

What was damaged in the Marshall fire?

In the morning of Friday December 31 at least 580 households were destroyed in Boulder County, according to the Weather Channel.

The Marshall fire also damaged a shopping mall and a Target hotel.

How many people had to evacuate because of the Marshall fire?

On 30,000 people were forced to evacuate after the Marshall blaze quickly gathered pace, multiple news outlets report, a worrying number given as the COVID-19 pandemic escalates in the state and country.

Pelle said COVID-19 positive evacuees were told to go to a COVID-19 recovery center to avoid infecting others.

What was the speed of the Marshall Fire winds?

Authorities said winds reached up to 110 mph, which is roughly equal to a category 2 or 3 hurricane.

Flames aside, wind alone has the power to tear roofs off homes and businesses, uproot trees and cause “near total loss of power” that could last from days to weeks, the National Hurricane Center.

“The wind shook the bus so hard I thought the bus was going to tip over,” Leah Angstman, who lives in Louisville, told The Associated Press of her return bus trip from the international airport. from Denver. “The sky was dark, dark brown, and the earth swirled across the sidewalk like snakes. “

What caused the Colorado forest fires?

Boulder County Sheriff’s Office tweeted On December 30, there were “several reports of power line failures, blown transformers, etc.” which caused “several small grass fires”.

At a press conference on Friday, December 31, authorities said the origin of the blaze had not been confirmed, but power line outages were still the expected cause.

The extremely dry conditions in the state have only made matters worse and continue to do so.

Ahead of a storm on Dec. 10, Denver set a record for “most consecutive days without snow,” according to the AP.

Nationally, climate change is fueling more powerful forest fires that occur more frequently and spread over more land.

This story was originally published December 31, 2021 11:51 a.m.

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Katie Camero is a McClatchy National Real-Time Science reporter. She is a Boston University alumnus and has reported for the Wall Street Journal, Science, and The Boston Globe.

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