2 missing in a giant fire in Colorado while investigation continues


LOUISVILLE, Colorado (AP) – Search teams searched the smoldering rubble of a massive Colorado forest fire for two missing people, while people who escaped the flames searched the charred remains of their homes to see what was left.

Investigators were still trying to find out what resulted in flames breaking through at least 24 square kilometers and destroying nearly 1,000 homes and other buildings in the suburbs between Denver and Boulder.

The inferno broke out unusually late on Thursday after an extremely dry autumn and an almost snow-free winter. Experts say these conditions, along with high winds, helped the fire to spread.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle says authorities are following a series of leads and issued a search warrant in “a certain location.” The sheriff on Sunday refused to provide details, including whether he thought the fire was arson.

“It’s complicated and everything is covered with half a meter of snow,” said Pelle of the place where the fire broke out. “The outcome of this investigation is critical – there is so much at stake. We become professional. We’ll be careful. “

Rex and Barba Hickman ransacked the ashes of their Louisville home with their son and wife.

Her son Austin used a grinding tool to cut open a safe to reveal gold and silver coins, melted credit cards, keys, and the charred remains of the couple’s passports.

They evacuated with their dog, iPads, and clothes on their backs. Rex Hickman said he was heartbroken when he saw that there was nothing left of her 23-year-old home.

“There is a numbness that hits you first. You know, like going into crisis mode. You think about what you can and can’t do, ”he said. “The real pain will subside in time.”

The couple need to find a rental apartment and clothes on short notice, and their insurance company told them on Sunday that it would take at least two years to rebuild their home.

“We know how lucky we are,” said Rex Hickman. “We are both. We have great friends, wonderful families. So many people suffer a lot more than we do, and we feel for them.”

While in some places houses that were burned to the ground were still glowing, the fire was no longer considered an immediate threat – especially when there was snow and icy temperatures on Saturday.

Authorities initially said everyone was held accountable after the fire. However, Boulder County spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said the reports of three missing people were discovered later amid the scramble to deal with the emergency. One was found alive, officials said on Sunday.

The crews were still looking for a woman in a Superior house and a man who lived near Marshall. Pelle said their homes were “deep in hot rubble and covered in snow. It is a difficult task. “

Other investigators saw if the missing people might have made it but didn’t contact their families or friends, Pelle said.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis and federal emergency officers visited some of the damaged neighborhoods Sunday morning.

“I know this is a difficult time in your life when you’ve lost everything or don’t even know what you’ve lost,” Polis said after the tour. “A few days ago you celebrated Christmas at home and hung up your stockings and now your home and hearth are destroyed.”

Of at least 991 buildings destroyed by the fire, most were residential buildings. But the fire also burned through eight stores in a Louisville mall, including a nail salon and a subway restaurant. In neighboring Superior, 12 stores were damaged, including a Target, Chuck E. Cheese, a Tesla dealer, a hotel and the town hall.

The two cities are about 30 kilometers northwest of Denver and have a combined population of 34,000.

The flames stopped approximately 100 meters (90 meters) from Susan Hill’s property in Louisville. She slept in her house on Saturday night with a space heater and hot water bottles to keep warm as her natural gas connection had not been turned back on.

She choked as she remembered the color of the sky and remembered nervously sprinting out of town with her college-aged son and the dog, the cat, and a fire box of birth certificates and other documents.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” she said. “It’s so sad. It’s so terrible. It’s just devastating.”

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