From The Denver Post (Conrad Swanson) via The Loveland Reporter-Herald:
Three people are missing and feared to have been killed by the Marshall fire, Boulder County’s sheriff said Saturday, contrary to officials’ earlier declarations that nobody was still unaccounted for in the wake of this week’s raging wildfire.
Currently, two people are missing in Superior and another is missing in the Marshall area, Sheriff Joe Pelle said at an afternoon news briefing. Each of their homes was lost to Thursday’s wind-driven wildfire, the sheriff said.
The search has been hampered by smoldering debris then snowfall, Pelle said…
Pelle also announced that preliminary tallies show 991 homes and businesses — 553 in Louisville, 332 in Superior and 106 in unincorporated Boulder County — were destroyed by the fire, and 127 more were damaged. The Boulder Office of Emergency Management has posted a full list at boulderoem.com.
The cause of the 6,000-acre wildfire, the most damaging in Colorado history, remains under investigation, Pelle said. Investigators have found no evidence pointing to downed power lines as the fire’s spark, as first had been suspected, the sheriff said.
From The Denver Post (Jessica Seaman):
Becky Bolinger and the team at the Colorado Climate Center have kept watch over the dry and warm conditions that have blanketed the Front Range since the summer, knowing that they provided the perfect recipe for a wildfire.
For them, it was a matter of when and where a fire would spark – not if one would happen, said Bolinger, the assistant state climatologist at the center at the Colorado State University.
Still, Bolinger and other scientists who spoke to The Denver Post, were surprised by the location of the wind-swept Marshall fire that rapidly spread through Boulder County on Thursday. Instead of mountain forests, the flames spread through suburban neighborhoods and forced tens of thousands of Coloradans from their homes as the state’s burgeoning population collided with climate change.
“I have thought it won’t be long before we start experiencing fires like California where flames chase people out of their neighborhoods,” Bolinger said. “I didn’t expect that would happen in December.”
High winds are common in Colorado and even brush fires are known to happen in Boulder in December, although they aren’t common. The Marshall fire, which spread over 6,000 acres in a matter of hours, is unique in its intensity and how it struck grassland — now filled with thousands of homes — that have been drying out for months, climate scientists said.
The grass grew tall — remnants of a wet spring — and began drying out in the summer amid a decades-long drought. Making matters worse, the period between June and December has been the warmest period on record and among one of the driest periods for the Denver metro area since the early 1960s, said Jennifer Balch, a fire scientist and director of the Earth Lab at CU Boulder.
The grass grew tall — remnants of a wet spring — and began drying out in the summer amid a decades-long drought. Making matters worse, the period between June and December has been the warmest period on record and among one of the driest periods for the Denver metro area since the early 1960s, said Jennifer Balch, a fire scientist and director of the Earth Lab at CU Boulder…
A warming climate laid the foundation for wildfires to happen year-round instead of just in the summer and that needs to be taken into consideration as more homes are built, the scientists said.
“Climate change is definitely a part of this story in that fire seasons are longer,” Balch said. “We don’t have a season any longer. We are now looking at year-long fires.”
The Marshall fire has also made scientists realize that the wildland-urban interface, where developments meet natural land, is larger than they knew, Balch said.