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In Colorado, fires broke out "in the blink of an eye" choked by ice

In Colorado, fires broke out “in the blink of an eye” choked by ice

Fires that devastated “in the blink of an eye” entire neighborhoods in the US state of Colorado were put out on Friday, with heavy snow choking the last embers.

• Read also: in pictures | Hundreds of homes destroyed by fires in Colorado

At least 500 homes erupted in smoke and tens of thousands were forced to flee, but no deaths have been reported so far, a “miracle” according to Governor Jared Polis.

The damage is no less visible: in the aerial photos, entire streets are little more than piles of fly ash. The fire, unlike previous fires, affected the suburbs, not just rural areas.

France Press agency

“Families only had a few minutes to put everything they could – their animals and children – into the car and leave,” Jared Polis said at a news conference on Friday.

It happened “in the blink of an eye,” he said.

Great flames tore through the sky, driven by strong winds of up to 160 km/h Thursday. The fire was reportedly caused by power lines falling on barren soil.

France Press agency

The final number of homes destroyed is not yet known. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Bailey put the number at more than 500 on Friday, saying he “would not be surprised if the number was over 1,000.”

He explained that the fire burned “mosaic”, which led to spare some areas for the destruction of neighboring houses.

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“When you see the devastation, it’s surprising that you don’t have a list of 100 missing people, but you don’t,” the sheriff said.

In an appeal with Governor Polis, President Joe Biden promised that “everything will be done to provide immediate assistance to the affected people and residents,” according to the White House.

France Press agency

On Friday, a layer of snow rested on the ashes of these devastating fires, in stark contrast to the previous day’s furnace.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has put part of this western mountainous state on alert for a winter storm, and has predicted heavy rain in the coming days.

Joe Bailey said this snow would “really help us,” saying he no longer expects the fire to start.

And local authorities lifted part of the eviction orders during the night.

But places like Superior, which has a population of 13,000, are still off-limits.

Townshipman Patrick Kilbride, 72, was at work when he was ordered to evacuate, but was only able to salvage his car and clothes. “Only ashes remained” from the house where he lived for three decades, he told the Denver Post.

People living in Superior, along with nearly 20,000 Louisville residents, have been ordered to boil tap water or use bottles, with cities using untreated water to fight fires.

Like much of the American West, already arid Colorado has experienced exceptional drought for several years.

With global warming, the intensity and frequency of droughts and heat waves are likely to increase, continuing to create ideal conditions for wildfires or bushfires. The American West has experienced unprecedented fires in recent years, particularly in California and Oregon.

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For UCLA meteorologist Daniel Swain, “it’s hard to believe” that these fires happen in December, a period not usually conducive to this type of event in the region.

“But take an autumn of record heat and drought, just two inches of snow so far this season, and add a storm with very steep gusts of wind… and the result is very dangerous, very fast-moving fires,” the researcher tweeted.

Aside from the fires, the United States has seen other extreme events recently, with Storm Ida passing New York and New Jersey in September and deadly tornadoes in Kentucky in December. For the latter, the association with global warming is still being studied.