“We still have two people missing,” Jennifer Churchill, a spokeswoman for the Boulder Office of Emergency Management, said on Saturday. The office “will continue to investigate,” Churchill said. No additional information was given about the missing persons.
He said the news came a day after officials said there were no deaths from the fire, which was miraculous considering the speed and intensity of the martial fire. At the time, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pele said a man who went missing Thursday night had been tracked down.
Officials visited the affected area on Friday morning to assess the damage. The west side of Superior and the subdivision in Old Town Superior were “completely gone,” Pele said at a news conference later that day, adding that the south side of Louisville also suffered “catastrophic damage.”
“I would estimate that it’s going to be at least 500 houses (destroyed),” Pele said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 1,000.”
“It was hard to even imagine and conceptualize that our entire neighborhood was destroyed,” she said. “We’ve been living there for so long.”
“But looking at it, it’s hard to believe that when you look at your house, it’s all there. And it was just a pile of rubble,” she said.
Authorities announced evacuation orders on Thursday as the fire quickly spread to suburban areas. The sheriff said Friday that many of those areas are closed because it is “still too dangerous” for residents to return.
“We saw active fires in several places this morning, we saw power lines down, we saw a lot of risk which we are still trying to reduce,” he said. “As soon as residents are able to come back, we’ll let them go. That’s our goal.”
The martial fire was one of two blasts that started on Thursday morning. Driven by historic winds, its flames spread across drought-stricken land, traveling “down a football field in seconds,” Governor Jared Polis described in a Thursday news conference.
The second fire, known as the Middle Fork Fire, was quickly attacked and “put down,” the sheriff said.
Martial Fire’s control remained at 0% on Friday because fighting this fire is different, fire incident commander Michael Smith told reporters.
“It’s about working around the perimeter of homes and working our way through the process,” he said. “We have to change our thought process for what prevention looks like,” he said.
‘It was like a disaster movie’
Many residents in the fire path were rescued by evacuation orders, and the rush to leave was a chaotic one, as they scrambled to grab belongings and pets before fleeing.
“They were ordered to evacuate immediately,” Denver Fire Department spokesman Captain Greg Pixley told CNN on Friday. “People aren’t ready for this.”
Resident Hunt Fry said he was shopping for soup for his wife at a Costco in Superior when an employee suddenly told customers to run away, sending them running. As he went home, Fry noticed a frenzied evacuation all around him, describing it as an “apocalyptic-feeling.”
“People were running out of their homes with their pet cats and, you know, everyone was in a lot of panic,” he said. “The thing that really struck me was the fear in the faces of the police officers who were trying to steer the traffic. They were legitimately scared.”
Inside a Home Depot in Louisville, employee Julie Tannes watched in horror Thursday as winds blew smoke and ash from a fire around the store.
“It was like a disaster movie,” Tanus wrote to CNN. “Seriously. I shivered for a few hours after I got home.”
No casualties were reported as of Friday, but several people were treated for injuries, officials said.
“In a situation like this you would expect, honestly, dozens of fatalities,” Polis told CNN on Friday evening. “These are thousands of people, many had five minutes to run away. It would be remarkable if there were no[deaths].”
The cause of the fire is being investigated
The origin of the fire is still under investigation, the sheriff said, adding that there were power lines where the martial fire started.
“The origin of the fire has not been confirmed. It is suspected to be power lines but we are investigating it today and we have people on the ground as we are trying to pinpoint the cause,” Pele said. ”
But the Boulder Office of Emergency Management (OEM) said power company Xcel Energy “found no down power lines.”
“Excel Energy has been a very sensitive and invaluable partner. At this point, they have inspected all of their lines within the ignition area and have found no down power lines,” the Boulder OEM said in a news release.
“They found some compromised communication lines that could be misidentified as power lines. Typically, the communication lines (telephone, cable, internet, etc.) would not cause a fire,” the release said.
A full investigation is underway, it said.
CNN’s Dakin Andone, Raja Rezek and Karma Hassan contributed to this report.
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