‘It’s just devastating’: Residents take stock after Colorado wildfire

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Louisville, Colo. Search teams searched for two missing people covered in snow on Sunday, but still one smoldering debris massive Colorado wildfires, while those who had barely escaped the flames sorted out what was left of the blaze and investigators tried to find the cause.

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The flames spread over at least 9.4 square miles and destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and other buildings in the suburbs between Denver and Boulder. It came unusually late in the year between an extremely dry autumn and a nearly snow-free winter. Experts say that those conditions helped the fire to spread along with strong winds.

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In hard-hit Louisville, Susan Hill took her dog down a snowy alley on a snowy Sunday morning in the freezing cold. She suffocates when she remembers three days ago, when she saw the sky change color from the hill where she watched the fireworks—and then to the fire with her college-age son and dog, cat, and birth certificate. Out of town with the box panicked. and other documents.

The flames went off about 100 yards from her property, and she slept Saturday night in her home using space heaters and hot water bottles to stay warm because her natural gas service hadn’t turned back on .

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“I don’t even know how to describe it,” she said. “It’s so sad. It’s awful. It’s just devastating.”

In a burned-out neighborhood near Hill’s home, a US mail carrier checked stationary brick and stone boxes for outgoing mail. The fire started so fast that people might have put bills or other letters in it, and she didn’t want anyone to steal them.

While houses that burned into the foundation were still smoldering in some places, the fire was no longer considered an immediate threat – especially with Saturday’s snow and freezing temperatures.

“A day late and a dollar short,” Hill said of the ice, which scientists said Usually prevents winter fires which spread over the dry grass.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and federal emergency officials visited some of the damaged areas on Sunday morning.

After the tour, Polis said, “I know it’s a difficult time in your life if you’ve lost everything or you don’t even know what you’ve lost.” “A few days ago you were celebrating Christmas at home and hanging your stockings and now the house and the hearth are destroyed.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Utility officials did not find any power lines around the site of the fire.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pele said Saturday that officers were following several tactics and had executed a search warrant at “a particular location.” He declined to give details.

Officials initially said that everyone was accounted for after the fire broke out. But Boulder County spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said three missing were reported later as a scramble to handle the emergency took place. One was found alive, officials said on Sunday.

The search for the other two missing was still complicated by burning debris and snow.

Most of the at least 991 buildings destroyed by the fire were homes. But fires also engulfed eight businesses in a Louisville shopping center, including a nail salon and a Subway restaurant. In neighboring Superior, 12 businesses were damaged, including Target Tgt.
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Chuck E. Cheese, Tesla TSLA,
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dealership, a hotel and town hall.

The two cities are about 20 miles northwest of Denver, with a combined population of 34,000.

Utility crews expect most electricity to be restored to homes on Sunday as well, but have warned it could take longer for gas service to return.

People line up at the Red Cross shelter to collect donated space heaters, bottled water and blankets. Xcel Energy urged other residents to use fireplaces and wood stoves to stay warm and protect their pipes from freezing at home.

Superior Resident Jeff Markle arrived in his truck to get a heater. He said he felt lucky to have been “simply displaced” as his home remained intact.

“We’re done, staying with friends, and excited for the new year. This should be better than the last one,” Markle said.

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