Colorado Gov. Jared Polis toured burned-out communities Sunday as searchers with cadaver dogs picked through the rubble looking for two people missing since fires raced through 10 square miles of thickly populated suburbs north of Denver.
The Marshall Fire destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes and businesses. Polis viewed the destruction with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse.
“It gives me great confidence we will have support from our federal partners … to make sure people have the resources to rebuild, recover and heal,” Polis said.
In areas where people were allowed to return, stunned residents walked the streets in sub-freezing temperatures, taking in the carnage.
Susan Hill, walking her dog down a snowy street in Louisville, described the nervous sprint out of town Thursday with her college-age son and their dog, cat and important documents. The flames stopped about 100 yards from her property, she said.
“I don’t even know how to describe it,” she said. “It’s so sad. It’s so awful. It’s just devastating.”
Authorities said they were relieved that many more people were not missing or killed by the blaze, which ignited Thursday and was driven by historic wind gusts sometimes surpassing 100 mph.
At least 991 homes, businesses and other buildings were destroyed, and 127 were damaged. The cause of the blaze was under investigation. Boulder County Sheriff Joe PellePelle said authorities had executed a search warrant but declined to give details.
The incident management team said in a statement late Saturday that the Marshall Fire is 62% contained.
Areas of “significant” heat still exist around some structures, the statement said.
“These heat sources can flare up and may be visible especially at night,” the statement said. “It will take firefighters some time to methodically go around each structure to ensure that they are out and pose no hazard to the fire perimeter or adjacent unburned structures.”
Hardest hit were the towns of Louisville and Superior, which have a combined population of 34,000.
Neguse said he and other leaders were working to “bring the full force of federal resources to support displaced families and community members.”
Contributing: The Associated Press