Colorado scorched by wildfires as tens of thousands forced to flee

Boulder, Colorado - Wildfires forced thousands of people to flee their homes in Colorado on Thursday as strong winds whipped up a hellish scene.

The devastating Colorado wildfires seen from a plane.
The devastating Colorado wildfires seen from a plane.  © Screenshot/Twitter/Gretchen Rosenberg

Over 30,000 residents had to flee their homes in the communities of Louisville and Superior on Thursday, as fire departments issued evacuation orders for the two towns.

A series of smaller fires was whipped up into a more dangerous blaze by winds as strong as 115 miles per hour, Sheriff Joe Pelle told local media. It's feared that hundreds of residences and other businesses will be destroyed – as many as 560 in the Superior region, according to the sheriff's estimates. There are reports of six people injured, but no deaths so far.

Blazes like this are unusual in the winter. They were started when power lines collapsed in regions experiencing drought. Colorado Governor Jared Polis has declared a state of emergency for the affected area, which lies north of Denver. Evacuation centers have been set up in Lafayette, Niwot, Boulder, and Longmont.

Firefighters tackle blaze in barley field made famous by Rihanna
Firefighting Firefighters tackle blaze in barley field made famous by Rihanna

In a press briefing held by the Boulder Office of Emergency Management (OEM), authorities distinguished between the Middle Fork Fire and the Marshall Fire, which were both first reported between 10 and 11 AM MST. While the first was put out relatively fast by firefighters, the second expanded to a mammoth 1,600 acres in size and devastated the region.

Both the governor and Boulder OEM urged residents not to return to evacuation zones.

"We know that you are concerned about your home/belongings. First responders are working non-stop to keep everyone safe, even as they don’t know the status of their own homes in the area," Polis added in a tweet.

Updates will be issued at a press conference scheduled for 10 AM local time at the Boulder County Sheriff's headquarters.

Cover photo: Screenshot/Twitter/Gretchen Rosenberg

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