LOUISVILLE, Colo. (AP) – Last week’s Colorado wildfire caused at least $ 513 million in damage and destroyed nearly 1,100 homes and structures, officials said Thursday as they updated the toll of property lost in the most destructive wildfire in state history.
Boulder County released the new totals after further assessing the suburban area between Denver and Boulder, where entire neighborhoods were charred. This is the first estimate of the economic damage caused by the fire on December 30.
Authorities previously estimated that at least 991 homes and other buildings had been destroyed. Two people are missing, although authorities have found partial human remains in one location.
President Joe Biden was due to inspect the damage on Friday.
Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the windswept forest fire, which forced thousands to flee without warning. Hell erupted after months of drought and fed on the dry grasslands surrounding the rapidly growing development in the region near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Experts say similar events will become more frequent as climate change warms the planet and suburbs expand in areas prone to fires. Ninety percent of Boulder County experiences severe or extreme drought, and it has not experienced significant rainfall since mid-summer.
The blaze, which spanned 24 square kilometers, is the most destructive in state history in terms of destroyed and damaged homes and other structures. A 2013 fire outside Colorado Springs destroyed 489 homes and killed two people.
In 2020, Colorado also suffered its three largest wildfires in recorded history as a prolonged drought maintains its grip on the western United States.
The new totals include destroyed barns, sheds and other outbuildings, but the vast majority were residences, Boulder County officials said. The worst damage occurred in and around Louisville and Superior, neighboring towns about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Denver with a combined population of 34,000.
Seven commercial structures were destroyed and 30 damaged, the county said. Losses from commercial buildings were still being calculated.
Federal and state investigators interviewed dozens of people as they worked to determine what started the fire on a day when winds exceeded 100 mph (160 mph). Their efforts are focused on an area near Boulder where a passerby captured video of a burning shed the day the blaze started.
Disaster experts say the number of possible casualties is remarkably low given how quickly the fire has ravaged the housing estates and especially given the fact that a public warning system has not reached everyone. . Boulder County officials said Thursday that emergency alerts had been sent to more than 24,000 contacts. Some 35,000 people have fled their homes.
One of the destroyed homes belonged to Bill Stephens, the pastor of Ascent Community Church in Louisville, who said Thursday that at least 17 members of his congregation also lost their homes in the fire. Stephens was at a disaster relief center to collect a check for $ 500 from the Red Cross to help buy basic necessities.
The church itself, a renovated old Sam’s Club building, survived the fire but suffered extensive smoke damage. Church volunteers spent the day removing the holiday decorations that reeked of smoke. Fans and industrial filters rotated throughout the sanctuary to help remove the odor.
Although the congregation could not hold church services for several weeks, Stephens said the wildfire would not prevent them from praying. They will hold Sunday services at a local hotel until the church is cleaned up and ready to reopen.
“I do my best to take care of the congregation. At the same time, we are faced with the fact that our own home is gone, ”Stephens said. “It’s just a community that has been rocked by it.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.