Governor Jared Polis declares a state of emergency as the National Weather Service warns of ‘life-threatening situation’ in affected areas in the US.
Tens of thousands of residents in two communities in the U.S. state of Colorado have been ordered to evacuate after wind-driven wildfires engulfed parts of the area in smoky, orange-like air and destroyed hundreds of homes.
Louisville’s 21,000 residents were ordered to evacuate Thursday after the 13,000 people in Superior were ordered to leave.
The neighboring towns are about 32 km (20 miles) northwest of the state capital, Denver, a city of more than 715,000 people.
A large plume of smoke from the wildfires was visible in Denver. A photo from the Reuters news agency also showed several buildings burning in Superior, a suburb of Boulder.
A state sheriff was quoted as saying that 580 houses, a hotel and a shopping center had burned down.
Governor Jared Polis has declared a state of emergency to allow the use of disaster relief to support emergency response efforts and the mobilization of the Colorado National Guard and other state resources as needed.
A nearby section of the U.S. highway was also closed due to a fire.
A fire northwest of Superior was one of several that started in the area when winds were blowing up to 169 kilometers per hour (105 miles per hour).
Very strong winds that fuel the fuel #marshallfire. Never a good sign when radar shows a plume of smoke so strongly.
– NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) 30 December 2021
The National Weather Service (NWS) said in a social media post that smaller fires have also been reported in at least two areas.
The weather agency warned that the fast-moving fires were creating a “life-threatening situation” in some areas.
A mandatory evacuation has been ordered in all areas of Louisville, except for two districts, according to the police department.
Six people injured in the fires were treated at UC Health Broomfield Hospital, the Associated Press news agency quoted a hospital spokesman as saying.
The extent of property losses was not immediately known, but a news station broadcast footage of at least one house engulfed in flames near Louisville.
The fires on the outskirts of the Denver metropolitan area, which left bone dry from an extreme drought that gripped eastern Colorado, followed a few days of heavy snow in the Rocky Mountains in the west.