Crews box in Colorado while investigators search for the cause

Karen England Horan with her son Robert, right, as they search the remains of their condominium in search of jewelry and family heirlooms after it was destroyed by wildfire in their Louisville, Colorado neighborhood on Tuesday, January 4, 2022 ( AP Photo / Haven Daley)

BOULDER, Colorado (AP) – Colorado firefighters contain the large fire that destroyed nearly 1,000 homes in an effort to prevent it from spreading – but officials warned Tuesday that gusty winds expected before a blizzard could break into the fire zone between the Denver and Boulder.

About 200 firefighters worked to put out smoldering spots in damaged buildings and bone-dry vegetation that serves as tinder to ignite wildfire flames as gusty winds descend from the Rockies.

The fire that broke out last Thursday was finally fully contained on Tuesday by firefighters from across Colorado; The fire burned 9.4 square miles in suburbs and grasslands northwest of Denver, said David Boyd, spokesman for an incident management team responsible for fighting fires in Boulder County.

Although the fire has subsided in the past few days and was no longer seen as a threat due to a snow storm last weekend, the firefighters went door to door looking for smoldering fire that could flare up from winds with winds of up to 60 miles per hour, said Boyd.

“Our concern about the high winds is that many buildings that have been destroyed still have fragile walls or a still standing chimney that could fall,” said Boyd. “It is also a danger to the public. People returning to their homes need to be aware of this instability. “

The inferno was lashed by winds at speeds of 100 miles per hour last week, destroying nearly 1,000 homes and other buildings, and forcing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate the fast-growing suburb dotted with grasslands.

Two people were still missing Tuesday, and crews used small tools to search the places where they lived in search of remains.

Federal and state investigators asked dozens of people in their search for the cause of the fire. The results of that investigation – and even a progress report – could take days if not weeks, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said Monday.

Pelle said part of the investigation into the area she believes the fire broke out includes properties inhabited by members of the Twelve Tribes, a Christian denomination founded in the 1970s by a high school teacher in Tennessee was founded and has 2,000 to 3,000 members worldwide. But Pelle said when asked at a press conference Monday that the group is not the only focus of the investigation that has not yet addressed a suspected cause.

Twelve Tribes did not respond to a voicemail and email sent Monday by The Associated Press to a number and email listed on the group’s website. A man who answered another phone number associated with the group said Tuesday that no one was allowed to speak for the organization and declined to provide identification.

Experts have said the winter fire was rare, but similar events will occur more frequently as climate change warms the planet and suburbs grow in fire-prone areas. The conflagration followed months of drought that included a dry fall and little snow until that weekend.

The investigation into the cause of the fire is focused on an area near Boulder where a passerby has been captured Video of a burning shed the day the fire broke out, said Pelle. Authorities have said no run-down power lines have been found in the area.

The area known as Marshall Mesa in unincorporated Boulder County is near the Rocky Mountain foothills and overlooks more populated suburbs that were devastated by the fire. Marshall Mesa is surrounded by dry public space and private grasslands.

A burned car is left on a hill overlooking Superior, Colorado on Sunday, January 2, 2022. (AP Photo / Thomas Peipert)

When searching for the missing, the crews looked for a woman in the town of Superior and a man from the nearby Marshall Township.

Louisville police chief Dave Hayes said authorities were using corpse dogs as a precautionary measure to re-examine destroyed properties.

He said no one was reported missing in the badly damaged city, but that “doesn’t mean we won’t find anything”. Hayes told reporters Monday that he had lost his home and was wearing a change of clothes that he was about to buy from someone.

Utility teams went door-to-door under the still-intact houses to see if natural gas and electricity could be safely restored.

“What a relief,” said Carl Johns of Louisville when a utility clerk turned a gas tap on and went into John’s house after 21 years to make sure the gadgets came on. He had been living with friends since Thursday when the police drove through the neighborhood and asked everyone to evacuate over the loudspeaker.

Some of his neighbors weren’t so lucky. Down the street was a row of burned houses.

“That just knocks me out,” said Johns. “The houses are not there and you don’t recognize your own block.”

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