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Marshall Fire destroys more than 1,000 homes

Extreme winds hampered firefighting efforts.

Ten miles west-northwest of my home in Thornton, Colo., more than 500 homes burned today … and the fire continues virtually unabated. Winds reaching 115 mph this morning downed power lines and started a grass fire — the Marshall Fire — that spread rapidly eastward. By noon the towns of Superior and Louisville had been evacuated.

I’ve had the tv on all day and not until an hour or two after sunset did the winds begin to relent. Until then there was little firefighters could do against gusty 70-100 mph winds. One reporter said water from fire hoses was blown back into the faces of the firefighters. And of course, all air support was grounded.

Dense suburbs laced with bone-dry greenbelts were virtually indefensible. (Photo: Trevor Hughes)

Recent reports (7 pm local) say more than 600 homes have burned, making this the most destructive fire in the state’s history. So far no fatalities have been reported, but the fire is still raging. I felt like a voyeur watching homes burn this afternoon. It was heartbreaking. But the worst moments came at sunset when the light faded and Christmas lights became visible on burning homes.

The situation got personal when the fire threatened the hospital where my primary care doctor is based and where my two grandchildren were born. Smoke was getting into the ventilation system and evacuation was ordered. My daughter-in-law, an EMT, aided in the evacuation.

The ultimate irony: while homes continue to burn, we’re under a winter storm watch, with as much as 6 inches of snow to begin falling by morning. Nature has a cruel sense of timing.

The smoke plume was obvious on radar.

December 31: Reports this morning say some 6,400 acres burned. Gov. Polis, at 10 am, said up to 1,000 homes might have been destroyed, so obviously an accurate count is yet to come. Snow has begun falling over parts of the burned area.

Inciweb map of burned area
(Hart Van Denburg/Colorado Public Radio via AP, Pool)

Finally, at 2 pm, snow has begun falling here at my home.

9 pm: Xcel Energy has investigated and reported that there were NO downed power lines in the area where the fire started. Authorities now report there are two missing persons.

January 1, 2022: Three missing and feared dead, 991 structures destroyed in Marshall fire, Boulder sheriff says. Based on several tips, deputies obtained a search warrant for the property where a small shed was seen burning near the firestorm’s source. I’ve begun thinking the fire was the result of careless, criminally negligent burning, perhaps of trash, on a Red Flag Day, when no burning of any kind is allowed.

From video showing the possible source of the Marshall Fire.

January 2, 2022: One of the three missing persons has been accounted for. And, believe it or not, Friday morning, a Louisville man confronted firefighters with an AR-15. He then drove away but was arrested nearby and charged with menacing with a weapon (a felony), obstructing government operations, obstructing a peace officer/firefighter, eluding, and third-degree criminal trespass.

I missed this story earlier today because of the Denver Post paywall, but was able to read it on my phone:

January 6, 2022: Updated numbers. 1,084 homes and 7 businesses were destroyed. Exact cause is still being investigated. One person still missing.

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