President Joe Biden has approved federal disaster assistance for areas in Colorado that were affected by the wildfires.
More than 30,000 people in Boulder County were asked to evacuate as the flames ate through over 1,600 acres on Thursday. By Saturday, that number had been upped to over 6,000 acres. Over 1,000 homes and businesses are now said to be destroyed, with some residents stating that they lost “every material possession” in the fire.
On Saturday, Biden approved FEMA assistance for Colorado, providing residents with grants for temporary housing and home repairs. FEMA also provides low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and helps business owners get back on their feet. It also allows state, local governments, and nonprofit organizations to approve emergency workers in Boulder County.
Three People Missing, Assumed Dead
Yesterday, The Blast reported that two people had been declared missing in the Colorado wildfires. That number has been upped to three. The wildfires have been mostly extinguished by heavy snowfall throughout the preceding night; however, over ten inches of snowfall in some areas is now hampering search and rescue attempts.
One person missing is a 91-year-old woman named Nadine Turnbull, who had been living in Old Town Superior. Her grandson-in-law said that they “tried to go out the front door with the neighbor. It was engulfed. [We] checked the back door and it was engulfed.” A cousin who was also inside the home suffered burns on her arms and legs.
“It’s difficult, difficult now knowing,” he said. “[We’d] much rather know.”
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said that it is unlikely that any of the three declared missing will be found alive. However, the county is looking to bring in human-remains detection dogs in order to aid in the search.
“The structures where these folks would be are completely destroyed and covered with about eight inches of snow,” Pelle said at a press conference on Saturday.
Many Fear Worse Fires Resulting From Climate Change
It’s not just the weather happening today. The ingredients for a devastating wildfire have been coming together since last spring. A very wet spring 2021 helped grow the grasses. A very dry summer and fall dried the grasses out and prepared the kindling. pic.twitter.com/tslauPH1Wx
— Becky Bolinger (@ClimateBecky) December 30, 2021
The cause of the wildfire is not yet known; however, climate change increases the risk that hot, dry weather will fuel wildfires. Colorado was experiencing unusually dry conditions prior to the snowfall. Wind gusts of up to 110 miles per hour also drove the flames, increasing the devastation.
Although the fire was thought to be started by sparks from downed power lines, Pelle reiterated that utility company Xcel Energy had inspected all downed power lines and they could find no damaged or downed lines in the area where the fire is assumed to have started. Sheriff Pelle revealed that a search warrant was issued in connection to the investigation into the fire’s origins, but added that he could not comment further on an ongoing investigation.
Assistant State Climatologist at the Climate Center at Colorado State University, Becky Bolinger, tweeted, “It’s not just the weather happening today. The ingredients for a devastating wildfire have been coming together since last spring. A very wet spring 2021 helped grow the grasses. A very dry summer and fall dried out the grasses out and prepared the kindling.”
In an interview with the Denver Post, she continued, “I have thought it won’t be long before we start experiencing fires like California where flames chase people out of their neighborhoods; I didn’t expect that would happen in December.”
“Climate change is definitely a part of this story in that fire seasons are longer,” she added.