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SUPERIOR, Colorado – Colorado authorities searched Saturday for two people reported missing in a windswept winter forest fire in Denver’s suburbs that destroyed hundreds of homes and left thousands of people trying to get anything out of the fast-paced fire to rescue .
Authorities had previously said no one was missing in the area hit by Thursday’s fire, but Boulder County spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said Saturday they are now trying to find two people who were later reported missing after The sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and other officials found hundreds of people who were initially reported missing. She declined to provide details of the two of where they were last seen or how they were attempted to find them, attributing the error to the confusion inherent in when authorities go out to deal with an emergency.
The news came as overnight snow and freezing temperatures on Saturday worsened the plight of hundreds of Colorado residents as they began the new year trying to save the remains of their homes.
At least 6 inches (0.15 meters) of snow and single-digit temperatures make for an eerie scene amid the smoldering remains of homes destroyed in Thursday’s forest fire that raced through the suburb between Denver and Boulder. Despite the shocking change in weather, the smell of smoke still crept into the empty streets blocked by National Guard forces in Humvees.
Red Cross volunteers distributed electric space heaters to thousands of residents whose homes survived the conflagration while utility teams battled to restore natural gas and electricity.
At least seven people were injured in the wildfire that broke out in and around Louisville and Superior, neighboring cities about 20 miles northwest of Denver with a total population of 34,000. More than 500 houses were feared to be destroyed.
The fire, which burned at least 24 square kilometers, was no longer considered an imminent threat.
Families fleeing the flames without warning returned to their neighborhoods on Friday to find a patchwork of devastation. In a few blocks there were houses that had fallen into smoking ruins, next to those that had remained practically unscathed by the fires.
“For 35 years I walked out my front door and saw beautiful houses,” said Eric House. “If I go out now, my home will be there. I walk out my front door and that’s what I see. “
Cathy Glaab found that her house in Superior had become a pile of charred and twisted rubble. It was one of seven houses in a row that were destroyed.
“The mailbox is up,” said Glaab and tried to crack a smile through tears. She added sadly, “So many memories.”
Despite the devastation, they want to rebuild the house that she and her husband have had since 1998. They love that the land joins a natural space and that they have a view of the mountains from the rear.
Rick Dixon feared there would be nothing to return to after seeing firefighters trying to save his burning house on the news. On Friday, Dixon, his wife, and son found it mostly gutted with a gaping hole in the roof, but still standing.
“We thought we’d lost everything,” he said, holding his mother-in-law’s china in padded containers. They also took out sculptures belonging to Dixon’s father and piles of clothes that were still on hangers.
As the flames swept over drought-stricken neighborhoods at an alarming rate and were driven by guests at up to 169 km / h, tens of thousands were ordered to flee.
The cause of the fire was investigated. Rescue workers said utility officials did not find any rundown power lines near the fire.
With some streets still closed, people walked back to their homes to get clothes or medicine, turn off the water to prevent the pipes from freezing, or to see if they still had a house. They walked with rucksacks and dragged suitcases or carts down the sidewalk.
David Marks stood with others on a hill overlooking Superior and used binoculars and binoculars to see if his house and that of his neighbors were still there, but couldn’t quite tell if his seat was okay. He said at least three friends have lost their homes.
He had watched the neighborhood burn from the hillside.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. … Just house by house, fences, just stuff that flies through the air, just caught fire. “
President Joe Biden declared a serious disaster in the region on Friday and ordered federal aid to be made available to those affected.
The wildfire broke out unusually late in the year, after an extremely dry autumn and in a winter that was almost free of snow until snow fell overnight.
Pelle said more than 500 houses were likely to have been destroyed. He and Governor Jared Polis said up to 1,000 homes could have been lost, but that won’t be known until crews can assess the damage.
Superior and Louisville are filled with middle and upper class neighborhoods with shopping malls, parks, and schools. The area is between Denver and Boulder, home of the University of Colorado.
Scientists say climate change is making weather more extreme and forest fires more common and more destructive.
Ninety percent of Boulder County has been hit by severe or extreme drought, and there has been no significant rainfall since midsummer. Denver set a record for consecutive days without snow before a small storm hit on December 10, the last snowfall before the wildfires broke out.
Bruce Janda personally faced the loss of his 25-year-old Louisville home on Friday.
“We knew the house had been totaled, but I felt the need to see it, to see what the rest of the neighborhood looked like,” he said. “We all know each other and we all love each other. It’s hard to imagine that something like this could happen to all of us. “
Associated Press Writer Thomas Peipert of Louisville, Colorado; Thalia Beaty in New York; Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this report. Nieberg is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a not-for-profit national utility that places journalists on local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.
Associated Press is supported by the Walton Family Foundation for reporting on water and the environment. The AP is solely responsible for all content. For all of AP’s environmental reports, visit https://apnews.com/hub/environment.