2 Jan 2022

Colorado wildfire: Three people reported missing and presumed dead

3:01 pm on 2 January 2022

Three people are missing and presumed dead, after a devastating wildfire in the central US state of Colorado.

LOUISVILLE, CO - DECEMBER 30: A home burns after a fast moving wildfire swept through the area in the Centennial Heights neighborhood on December 30, 2021 of Louisville, Colorado.

A home burns after a fast moving wildfire swept through the Centennial Heights neighbourhood of Louisville, Colorado. Photo: AFP

The blaze swept through several towns, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee.

The local sheriff had initially said there were no fatalities, calling it a "miracle".

But a spokeswoman for Boulder County admitted a mistake had been made.

"I think the sheriff probably wasn't adequately briefed by us," Jennifer Churchill said, in comments carried by the Colorado Sun. "That was an unfortunate error. We feel terrible."

No details have been released about those missing, but local media reported that one of them was a 91-year-old woman whose family said she got trapped by the incoming flames.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said it was unlikely any of the three will be found alive.

The wildfire burned 6000 acres across Boulder County, destroying at least 1000 homes and businesses.

It started under unusually dry conditions and came under control in part because of snowfall. Images showed eerie scenes, with charred buildings buried under thick snow.

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, told CBS.

"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."

LOUISVILLE, CO - DECEMBER 31: Talis Ozols takes in what remains of his apartment at the Wildflower Condos on December 31, 2021 in the aftermath of the Marshall Fire.

Talis Ozols takes in what remains of his apartment after the fire. Photo: AFP

The cause of the wildfire is being investigated although it is suspected to be powerlines, Reuters 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.

Evacuation orders on Thursday were first issued for all residents in the town of Superior, Colorado, with a population of about 13,000, and a short time later for the adjacent municipality of Louisville, home to more than 18,000 residents.

An entire subdivision of 370 homes went up in flames west of Superior, and 210 dwellings were lost in the Old Town area of Superior, along with additional residences in the area. Property losses also included a shopping centre and hotel in Superior, officials said.

LOUISVILLE, CO - DECEMBER 31: A statue of Virgin Mary remains standing amidst the rubble of a home on December 31, 2021 in the aftermath of the Marshall Fire.

A statue of Our Lady stands amid the rubble of a home. Photo: AFP

- BBC / Reuters

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