Investigators Trace Origin of Colorado Wildfire | Business and finance

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – Investigators looking into the cause of the Colorado wildfire that destroyed nearly 1,000 buildings have restricted their search to an area near Boulder, but it could take days or weeks before details were released, the sheriff said on Monday.

The search is focused on an area where a passerby captured video of a burning hangar the day the fire started, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said at a press conference. He said dozens of people have been interviewed so far.

Experts from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the US Forest Service were participating in the investigation, Pelle said.

The sheriff declined to provide many more details on Monday, a day after saying the fire “originated somewhere” in the neighborhood with the hangar on fire.

Stating that “the stakes are high,” Pelle said he would not comment on the investigation until he is ready “to announce progress – maybe it can take a week, maybe a month. “.

Getting it right, he said, was “more important than the need for speed that a lot of people are feeling right now.”

Experts say winter fire was rare, but similar events will become more frequent as climate change warms the planet and suburbs expand into areas prone to fires. Hell erupted exceptionally late in the year after months of drought that included a dry fall and a snowless winter so far.

No broken power lines were found in the area under investigation, according to the county emergency management office.

Meanwhile, teams continued to search for two people still missing on Monday, and survivors sorted through the charred remains of their homes to find what was left.

The region of Boulder County known as the Marshall Mesa sits near the base of the Rocky Mountain foothills and overlooks the most populous suburbs to the east which were devastated by the rapid fire, which was stoked by furious winds blowing from the foothills. The area is surrounded by dry public open spaces and private meadows.

Over the weekend, authorities executed a search warrant, but the sheriff declined to elaborate and did not comment on whether he thought the fire was arson.

A sheriff’s official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that several properties were under investigation, including one in the Marshall Mesa area, about two miles west of the hard-hit town by Superior. A National Guard Humvee blocked access to the neighborhood on Monday.

In the search for the missing, teams searched for a woman in the town of Superior and a man from the nearby community of Marshall. Pelle said crews were sifting through the debris by hand and using small tools.

Louisville Police Chief Dave Hayes said authorities were using cadaver dogs to recheck destroyed properties as a precaution. He said no one has been reported missing in the heavily damaged town, but that “doesn’t mean we won’t find anything.” Hayes told reporters after the briefing that he lost his own home and was wearing a change of clothes that he asked someone to buy for him.

Governor Jared Polis said during the briefing that it was “remarkable that a fire of this speed and size” only left two people missing. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated on Thursday, and Polis stressed the importance of respecting evacuation orders.

“When you get a pre-evacuation or evacuation notice, go ahead. The residents did, and most of them are with us today, ”he said.

While homes that burned to the foundations still smoked in places, the blaze was no longer seen as an immediate threat – especially with freezing temperatures and a blanket of snow that fell on Saturday.

Most of the 991 buildings destroyed by the fire were houses. But the fire also burned down eight businesses at a Louisville mall, including a nail salon and a Subway restaurant. In the neighboring Superior, 12 businesses were damaged, including a Target, a Chuck E. Cheese pizzeria, a Tesla car dealership, a hotel and the town hall.

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

Among the homes that were still intact, utility crews went door-to-door to see if natural gas and electricity could be safely restored.

“Are there toxic fumes? Are we okay with returning? ”Asked Nancy Alderson, who said she was concerned about plastics and other materials consumed in the fire.

Over the weekend, authorities distributed thousands of heaters to families who endured days of freezing temperatures inside homes spared by the fire.

“What a relief,” said Carl Johns, a Louisville resident, as a utility worker turned on a gas valve and walked into the home of 21-year-old Johns to make sure the devices were running. were on. He had been evacuated since Thursday, when police walked through the neighborhood and loudspeaker urged everyone to leave the area.

Some of his neighbors were not so lucky. At the end of the street stood a row of burnt down houses.

“It blows my mind,” Johns said. “The houses are not there and you cannot recognize your own block. “

The Boulder Valley School District, which serves the wildfire area, plans to resume classes as scheduled on Wednesday and provide counseling services to students and staff affected by the blazes. The University of Colorado at Boulder has postponed in-person classes to January 24, with distance learning starting January 10.

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