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No fatalities reported in catastrophic Colorado fires; hundreds of homes destroyed

Colorado Wildfire damage
Posted at 5:01 AM, Dec 31, 2021

Officials in Colorado on Friday said that a devastating wildfire burned a shopping center and anywhere between 500 to 1,000 homes in the suburbs of Denver and Boulder.

"This wasn't a wildfire in the forest, it was a suburban and urban fire — the Costco we all shopped at, the Target we buy our kids' clothes at," Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said during a press conference on Friday.

So far, officials have not seen any fatalities connected to the fire, which Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle called a miracle. One person who was reported missing on Thursday night has since been found.

The fires sprung up on Thursday when officials suspect wind gusts of up to 105 mph blew down power lines in Boulder County. Those winds then fanned the flames, causing the fire to jump from house to house. Pelle noted that officials are still working to determine an official cause of the fire.

"This was a disaster in fast motion over the course of half a day," Polis said, noting that some families only had minutes to evacuate their homes.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, said the fact that no fatalities have been reported is "a profound testament to the way first responders alerted people to danger."

Pelle says that while not every house in the burn area was affected, the 6,000-acre area where the fire occurred contained more than 2,000 homes. He added that officials would have a more accurate count on the number of structures burned over the weekend.

The aftermath of devastating wildfires in Boulder County, Colorado, Dec. 31, 2021.

Pelle added that firefighters would be assisted by the weather on Friday. Forecasts project that the area will get 3 to 6 inches of snow, which will help douse the flames.

While the fire is not yet 100% contained, officials said Friday that they do not expect any more growth. They added that there are still smoldering flames in some spots.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized federal funds for use to help firefighting costs, approving a request by Colorado's Fire Management Assistance Grant. The authorization allows for FEMA funding to cover 75% of the state's firefighting costs.

Polis added Friday that he had spoken to President Joe Biden and received "verbal authorization" for major disaster assistance. He added that he expected the declaration to be made official later in the day.

Colorado Wildfire damage
Dan Bruder walks past burned homes in his neighborhood, Dec. 31, 2021, in Superior, Colo. An estimated 580 homes, a hotel and a shopping center have burned and tens of thousands of people were evacuated in wind-fueled wildfires outside Denver, officials said Thursday evening. (AP Photo/Brittany Peterson)