The Marshall fire that tore through parts of Superior and Louisville may have destroyed as many as 1,000 homes as it decimated entire neighborhoods, Gov. Jared Polis and Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said Friday.
Officials on Thursday evening had estimated that at least 500 homes were burned by the wind-driven wildfire, but both Polis and Pelle acknowledged in a news conference on Friday morning that that number likely will rise significantly.
“I would estimate it’s going to be at least 500,” Pelle said. “I would not be surprised if it’s 1,000.”
No fatalities were reported as of Friday morning and with snow arriving in the Front Range, officials do not expect the fire to grow any larger or cause more significant damage than it already has, Polis said.
“This was a disaster in fast motion, all in half a day,” the governor said during the briefing, adding that families had just minutes to pack up and evacuate on Thursday.
Officials said there were 1,778 homes within the 6,000-acre burn area with a total value of $825 million — but not all of them burned, and it may be another day or so before a final tally is complete.
Local authorities overnight lifted all evacuation orders and pre-evacuation warnings for residents outside of Boulder County, including those in Broomfield and Westminster, as cooler temperatures and lighter winds slowed the wildfire that forced tens of thousands of people to flee Thursday.
The cooler temperatures are expected to continue Friday as a cold front moved into northern Colorado early in the morning and snow likely will begin falling across the Denver metro area by the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service in Boulder.
“There’s still areas burning inside the fire zone, around homes and shrubbery, but we’re not expecting to see any growth of the fire,” Pelle said. “I think we’re pretty well contained.”
The snow will help settle the fire when it arrives, but winds are expected to reach 10 mph to 15 mph, which will trap the smoke from the fire, said Frank Cooper, a meteorologist with the weather service.
“There’s just a lot of smoke and haze around this morning and that’s not going to go away,” he said, advising people with breathing problems and other health issues to stay indoors.
Gov. Jared Polis flew over the site of the Marshall fire on Friday morning. Video from the flight showed smoke rising from rubble that used to be homes. Whole streets of homes were largely wiped out, with only a few houses still standing.
Mandatory evacuation orders and pre-evacuation notices have been lifted for the FlatIron Crossing and Interlocken areas in Broomfield, as well as in Westminster and Arvada, including across the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
As of 6:47 a.m. Friday, Superior remains under mandatory evacuation, with no one allowed into the town and residents advised to stay where they are, according to local officials.
Louisville — which also was evacuated Thursday — has issued a boil water advisory for all residents as the city changed its water distribution to fight the wildfire and is now using untreated water.
The Boulder Office of Emergency Management said residents who evacuated and have property in the area should not return yet.
Good Samaritan Medical Center, which is one of two hospitals to close certain departments and transfer patients to other facilities because of the threat of the fire, has reopened its emergency department. The medical center also expects its labor and delivery department to resume operations at 12 p.m., according to a news release.
Officials said the Marshall fire likely was sparked by downed power lines after winds reached gusts of more than 100 mph.
The Front Range hasn’t seen many storms this fall, making the area and grass very dry, and which coupled with Thursday’s winds led to the fire, Cooper said.
“It just took off,” he said. “Unfortunately, it hit a very populated area.”
Reporter Elizabeth Hernandez contributed to this report.
This story will be updated.
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