Search teams were seeking out two missing individuals on Sunday while snow-covered debris was still smoldering from a massive Colorado wildfire.
Many people, who barely escaped the flames, sorted through what was left of their belongings as investigators tried to find the cause of the blaze.
Flames tore through at least 9.4 square miles and destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and other buildings in the suburban area between Denver and Boulder. The fire came unusually late in the year after an extremely dry fall and a winter characterized by hardly any snow.
Experts say those conditions coupled with high wind speeds helped the fire spread. Authorities initially said that everyone was accounted for following the fire, but Boulder County spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill added that reports of three people missing were later discovered. One was then found alive.
Crews were still searching for a woman at a home in Superior as well as a man living near Marshall, and Boulder County Sherriff Joe Pelle said their homes were “deep in hot debris and covered with snow. It is a difficult task.”
Pelle added that other investigators were attempting to find whether the missing people might have made it out safely but not contacted their families or friends. On Sunday, Pelle said authorities were pursuing several tips and had carried out a search warrant at “one particular location.”
He refused to give additional details, including his opinion on whether the fire was set intentionally. “It’s complicated and it’s all covered with a foot of snow,” he said of the location under investigation. “The outcome of the investigation is vital – there is so much at stake. We are going to be professional. We are going to be careful.”
On Sunday morning, Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and other federal emergency officials visited some of the damaged neighborhoods.
“I know this is a hard time in your life if you’ve lost everything or you don’t even know what you lost,” Polis said following the tour. “A few days ago you were celebrating Christmas at home and hanging your stockings and now home and hearth have been destroyed.”
ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: STAMFORD ADVOCATE
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