Briefline

Hundreds of homes lost as grass fires rip through Boulder County neighborhoods

By: - December 30, 2021 5:10 pm

A view looking west from Broomfield of the Marshall Fire in Boulder County at about 1 p.m. on Dec. 30, 2021. (Broomfield Police)

Hundreds of homes, including an entire Superior subdivision, were destroyed Thursday by a fast-moving grass fire in Boulder County.

Emergency personnel responded to two main fires, the Marshall Fire, straddling U.S. 36 just southeast of Boulder, and the Middle Fork Fire, just north of Boulder around North Foothills Highway and Middle Fork Road. Both fires are believed to have been caused by power lines blown down by high winds.

Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency.

As many as 600 homes potentially were lost to the Marshall Fire, according to Boulder Sheriff Joe Pelle, who spoke during a 4 p.m. press conference.

Every one of the 370 homes in the Sagamore neighborhood in Superior appear to have been burned, he said. In Old Town Superior as many as 210 homes were lost. Near Eldorado Springs between Superior and Marshall, “there are a number of homes and small subdivisions that lost homes,” Pelle said.

He added that Superior Marketplace, a shopping plaza that includes a Super Target, was on fire, and the Element hotel in Superior was “fully engulfed.”

The Marshall Fire, at 1,600 acres, forced the evacuation of Superior and Louisville, which together are home to more than 30,000 residents. Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville announced it was evacuating patients and staff shortly after 4 p.m. Video and photos from witnesses in the area showed harrowing scenes of burning structures and ferocious flames whipped by winds that reached up to 110 mph. 

No fire-related casualties had been reported as of Pelle’s press conference. “However,” he said, “I’d like to emphasize that due to the magnitude of this fire, the intensity of this fire and its presence in such a heavily populated area, we would not be surprised if there are injuries and fatalities.”

There was one reported injury — a first responder suffered a minor eye injury caused by wind-blown debris.

Polis, who participated in the press conference, said the Marshall Fire moved so fast it sometimes overtook an area the size of a football field “in a matter of seconds.”

A map of evacuation areas for the Marshall Fire in Boulder County on the afternoon of Dec. 30, 2021. The red area is under evacuation order. The yellow area is under evacuation warning. Click the map for the latest version.

Polis, a Boulder resident, emphasized the suburban character of the area affected by the fire.

“It’s like the neighborhood you live in, it’s like the neighborhood that any of us live in. And so 1,600 acres near a population center can be and is, in this case, absolutely devastating,” he said.

The governor’s declaration means emergency funds can be used for response efforts and makes available state resources, such as the Colorado National Guard. The state has been approved for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant.

A fire call center can be reached at 303-413-7730.

The Boulder Office of Emergency Management is providing updates on evacuations and other fire information.

This is a developing story.

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