Superior, United States:
Hundreds of homes are feared lost in fast-moving wildfires in the US state of Colorado, officials said Thursday as flames tear through areas desiccated by a historic drought.
At least 1,600 acres have burned in Boulder County, much of it suburban, with warnings that deaths and injuries were likely as the blaze takes hold of hotels and shopping centers.
“We know that approximately 370 homes in the Sagamore subdivision… have been lost. There’s a potential of 210 homes lost in Old Town Superior,” Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle told a news conference.
“The Target shopping complex in Superior is on fire; the Element Hotel in Superior is fully engulfed.
“I’d like to emphasize that due to the magnitude and intensity of this fire and its presence in such a heavily populated area, we would not be surprised if there are injuries or fatalities.”
The Colorado Sun newspaper reported that a number of people had been treated for burn injuries, with at least six patients at one hospital.
Photographs posted on Twitter showed huge flames looming over what appear to be ranks of houses.
One video shows a fire in a parking lot, with trees and grass ablaze, as strong wind pushes smoke around.
Thousands of people have been told to flee the fast-moving fire, which is thought to have begun when powerlines were toppled by gusting winds.
The 20,000-strong town of Louisville, along with the 13,000 residents of Superior, have been told to get out, with the National Weather Service describing the situation as “life-threatening.”
Wind gusts of over 100 miles (160 kilometers) an hour have been reported in some places, fanning the flames and complicating firefighting efforts by preventing aircraft from taking to the skies.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency, over what he said was a devastating fire.
Unlike previous blazes in the state, he said, this one is not in the countryside; it is where people live.
“This area is right in and around suburban sub-developments, stores,” he said.
“It’s like the neighborhood that you live in. It’s like the neighborhood that any of us live in. And so 1,600 acres near a population center can be and is, in this case, absolutely devastating.”
Like much of the American West, Colorado is in the grip of a years-long drought that has left the area parched and vulnerable to wildfire.
Although fires are a natural part of the climate cycle, and help to clear dead brush and reduce disease in vegetation, their scale and intensity is increasing.
Scientists say a warming climate, chiefly caused by human activities like the unchecked burning of fossil fuels, is altering weather patterns.
This prolongs droughts in some areas and provokes unseasonably large storms in other places, phenomena that are expected to get worse as worldwide average temperatures continue to climb.
Daniel Swain, a meteorologist at the University of California, tweeted that it was “hard to believe” these fires were taking hold in December, usually a quieter time for blazes.
“But take a record warm & dry fall, only 1 inch of snow so far this season, & add an extreme (100mph+) downslope windstorm…and extremely fast moving/dangerous fires are the result.”
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)