Colorado Governor: ‘New Year’s Miracle’ No One Has Been Killed in Wildfires

by Taylor Cunningham
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No one has lost their lives in the massive wildfires that engulfed Boulder County, Colorado this week. And Governor Jared Polis believes that it is nothing short of a miracle.

“We might have our very own New Year’s miracle on our hands—if it holds up that there was no loss of life,” he said during a press briefing earlier today. Polis also noted that no residents are missing inside the burn zone.

On Thursday, 100+ mph winds spread the fire into the towns of Superior and Louisville just north of Denver. A long-term drought created acres of dried brush to kindle the flames. And at this time, over 1,000 homes have been destroyed.

Officials aren’t sure what ignited the blaze, but they suspect downed powerlines were to blame.

Nearly 40,000 residents were forced to evacuate their homes once the fire began. 13,000 residents in Superior were the first to leave. Shortly after, another 18,000 from Louiseville followed. And because of the quick spread, outlying families also had to take refuge.

But today, the winds have slowed. And with a snowstorm on the way, firefighters believe the threat for more damage is over.

Winter Wildfires are Highly Uncommon

Jennifer Balch, a director at the Earth Lab at Colorado University who specializes in fire ecology, lives just outside of the burn zone. While speaking to Reuters, she explained that it’s shocking to see a wildfire during the winter months.

“I was smelling smoke, and there’s snowflakes hitting my cheeks,” she recalled seeing while she investigated the flames. “‘Winter wildfires’ should be an oxymoron.

We should not be dealing with wildfires at the end of December,” she added.

Balch believes that climate change is the reason for the unseasonable fire. Because the spring was rainier than usual, more grass grew. And when that grass dried during the drought, it allowed the fire to spread faster and further than it should have.

And to make the situation worse, the population in Boulder County has exploded in recent years. So there are now thousands more homes in the burn zone.

Once the fire ignited, it only took a couple of hours to cover around 6,000 acres. Though there were no major injuries, six people were hospitalized.

Because of the high winds, the fire burned in a mosaic pattern. In many cases, an untouched house stands next to another that is reduced to ashes. And in a subdivision west of Superior, 370 homes went ablaze.

The wildfire also spread into business districts. And a few shopping centers and one hotel burned.

Outsider.com