The fast-moving Marshall Fire is suspected to have started when heavy winds knocked down power lines and blew the flames into residential areas. Lower-than-usual Autumn rainfall left county grass dry and brittle, easy for spreading fires, experts said. Tens of thousands of Boulder-area residents are believed to have evacuated on Thursday, before cooler temperatures and snowfall limited the fire’s spread.
In a Friday press conference, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said the fires had caused serious damage to homes and businesses. “I would estimate it’s going to be at least 500,” Pelle said of the number of homes burned. He added that the figure could increase with further inspection. “I would not be surprised if it’s 1,000.”
Footage from Thursday night showed entire residential streets ablaze. The fire, propelled by winds that reached up to 100 miles per hour, struck suddenly. Locals uploaded terrifying cell phone footage as they stepped out of grocery stores and restaurants, only to find an encroaching wall of smoke and fire.
Although no human casualties were confirmed, Boulder County residents sent out urgent messages about dogs that had been lost during the evacuation. By Friday, other locals had set up a list of found dogs, and many of the families were reporting themselves reunited with their animals.
Even with the fire dying, experts urged caution for Boulder County residents returning to their homes, noting that smoke would likely become trapped in the area, posing a breathing hazard. The Boulder County city of Louisville issued a boil-water advisory to residents, as it had diverted its main water supply to the fire-fighting efforts.
Some areas were still smoldering, officials said, even as residents returned to streets leveled by the fire.
“Our home is gone,” one tweeted above a picture of a burned house. “Our neighborhood is burned to the ground.”