The fire that destroyed entire neighborhoods in the state “in the blink of an eye” Colorado, in the west of the United States, this Friday (31) are heading out with snowfall that extinguished past outbreaks.
Smoke had subsided in at least 500 homes and thousands had to flee, but no deaths have yet been reported, a “miracle” according to Governor Jared Polis.
The destruction is enormous: in aerial images it is possible to see entire streets low in ash and smoke. Unlike other fires, these were not limited to the countryside and reached the suburbs.
“The families had only minutes to collect whatever they could – animals, children – in a car and ran away,” police said at a news conference on Friday. It all happened “in the blink of an eye”, the governor said.
Last night, the sky was painted orange in flames due to gusts of wind speed up to 160 km/h. The fire seems to have started due to electric poles falling on the dry ground.
There is no information about the number of houses destroyed so far. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pele estimated today that it is more than 500, and he said “he wouldn’t be surprised if there were more than 1,000.”
The fire spread “as a mosaic,” so some neighborhoods survived, while houses on the other side burned down, he explained.
“When you look at the devastation, it’s amazing that we don’t have a list of 100 missing, but we don’t have,” the sheriff declared.
According to the White House, in a phone call to Governor Polis, President Joe Biden promised to do “whatever is possible to provide immediate assistance to affected people and areas.”
This Friday the ashes were covered with snow.
The US Weather Service (NWS) has put parts of this mountainous state on a winter storm alert and has predicted heavy snowfall in the coming days.
The ice “will help us,” said Pele, who suspects the fire will now spread again.
Some evacuation orders were suspended overnight by local officials, but access is restricted to places like Superior, with 13,000 residents.
Patrick Kilbride, 72, was working when he was ordered to evacuate. He only managed to save his car and the clothes he was wearing. The rest, the house he lived in for three decades, has turned to “ash,” he told the Denver Post.
Like most of the American West, Colorado is an arid state that has suffered from exceptional droughts for years.
With global warming, it is likely that the intensity and frequency of drought and heat wave episodes will increase even more, creating conditions conducive to wildfires.
In recent years, the American West has faced unprecedented fires, particularly in California and Oregon.
For UCLA University meteorologist Danielle Swain, “it’s hard to believe” that fires are happening in December.
“However, take an autumn [no hemisfério norte] Add to that the record heat and drought with only an inch of snow so far, and a hurricane with extreme winds. […] And the result will be extremely dangerous fires that move very fast,” the researcher tweeted.
In addition to fires, the United States has recently experienced other extreme events, such as the passing of Storm Ida in New York and New Jersey in September and the deadly December tornado in Kentucky. So far, it is not known whether the latter is associated with global warming.