Hundreds of homes were already destroyed by fires in Colorado on Thursday, officials said, as the US state was hit by strong winds amid a historic drought.
We know that around 370 homes have been destroyed in Sagamore Subdivision. “It is possible that 210 homes have been destroyed in the old town of Superior,” Boulder County Sheriff Joe Bailey said at a news conference.
Boulder, with a population of over 100,000, is located about fifty kilometers from Denver, the capital of Colorado.
This state in the American West suffers from a historical drought that has greatly facilitated the displacement of flames. Smoke shrouded at least 648 hectares of vegetation in Boulder County, and the fire included hotels and shopping malls.
Gusts of more than 160 km/h were observed in some places, fanning the flames and complicating the efforts of the firefighters.
“I would like to stress the scale and intensity of this fire and its presence in a densely populated area and we would not be surprised if there are casualties or deaths,” Joe Bailey warned.
Thousands of residents were ordered Thursday to evacuate their homes.
These evictions particularly concern Louisville, a municipality of 20,000 residents.
Boulder County emergency services warned, “If you’re in the area, act quickly.”
Jared Polis, the governor of this mountainous state where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains, tweeted, “Soon strong winds spread the flames and grounded all the planes.”
“Leave Louisville or your life is in danger,” the US Meteorological Services insisted, by reporting a storm surge approaching 170 km/h.
“Only ashes remain”
Another city targeted by a full evacuation order, Superior, which has a population of 13,000, was blanketed Thursday in a cloud of black smoke, according to photos posted on social media.
The local Denver Post reports that Patrick Kilbride, 72, was working in a hardware store when he was ordered to evict.
The 72-year-old rushed home as president to pick up his things, but was unable to save anything other than his car and the clothes he was carrying on his back. Her dog and cat died in the fires.
“All that’s left is the ashes,” he says of the house he lived in for three decades.
“It’s a strange feeling to move from a situation where you have all the amenities you can get and have absolutely none,” he told The Denver Post.
Like much of the American West, Colorado is currently experiencing a drought that has lasted for several years, exacerbating the area’s drought and making it vulnerable to fires.
If the latter is a natural component of the climate cycle, removing vegetation and reducing the spread of diseases inside it, its breadth is increasing.
With global warming, the intensity and frequency of droughts, which particularly threaten the food security of the population, may continue to increase even if the world manages to limit the rise in temperatures to +1.5 ° C compared to the pre-industrial era.
In addition, rising temperatures, increased heat waves, and droughts create ideal conditions for wildfires or bushfires.
The American West has experienced unprecedented fires in recent years, particularly in California and Oregon.
For Daniel Swain, a meteorologist at the University of California, it is “hard to believe” that these fires happen in December, which is usually a quieter period for this type of event in the region.
“But take record heat and dry fall, only two inches of snow so far this season, and add a storm with very low winds (160 km/h and above)… and the result is fires. Very dangerous and moving very fast,” the researcher tweeted.
“Food trailblazer. Passionate troublemaker. Coffee fanatic. General analyst. Certified creator. Lifelong music expert. Alcohol specialist.”