Search Teams Are Looking for Two Missing People After the Colorado Fire as Investigations Continue
LOUISVILLE, Colo. — Search teams looked for two missing people in the smoldering debris from a massive Colorado wildfire while people who escaped the flames sorted through the charred remnants of their homes to see what was left.
Investigators still attempted to find out what had caused the flames to engulf at least 9.4 sq miles (22.4 km) of suburban Denver.
After a dry winter and surrounded by snowy conditions, the inferno broke out on Thursday. This was unusually late in 2014. These conditions and high winds were said to be the key factors in the spread of fire.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle says authorities are pursuing a number of tips and had executed a search warrant at “one particular location.” The sheriff refused to give details Sunday, including whether he thought the fire was arson.
“It’s complicated and it’s all covered with a foot of snow,” Pelle said of the scene where the fire started. “The outcome of that investigation is vital — there is so much at stake. Our professional approach is what we will use. We are going to be careful.”
Rex Hickman and Barba Hickman dug through the rubble of their Louisville house with their son, and their wife.
Their son Austin cut a safe open with a grinding tool to reveal gold and silver coins, melted credit cards, keys and the charred remains of the couple’s passports.
With their dogs, their iPads, and their clothes they left behind, they fled. Rex Hickman expressed his sadness at the loss of their beloved home after 23 years.
“There’s a numbness that hits you first. It’s almost like when you enter crisis mode. You think about what you can do, what you can’t do,” he said. “The real pain is going to sink in over time.”
Their insurance company advised them on Sunday that they would need at least two more years to build their home.
“We know how fortunate we are,” Rex Hickman said. “We have each other. “We have wonderful friends, great family. So many people have got to be suffering much more than we are, and we feel for them.”
While homes that burned to the foundations were still smoldering in some places, the blaze was no longer considered an immediate threat — especially with Saturday’s snow and frigid temperatures.
In the initial response, authorities stated that all were safe and sound after the fire. Jennifer Churchill from Boulder County said three missing persons were reported to authorities after the chaos of managing the emergency. Officials confirmed that one person was found alive on Sunday.
Crews still wanted to find a woman living in Superior or a man who lived near Marshall. Pelle said their homes were “deep in hot debris and covered with snow. It is a difficult task.”
Pelle explained that some other investigators also looked into the possibility of missing persons making it out but had not yet contacted their family or friends.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis visited the areas affected Sunday morning with federal emergency officials.
“I know this is a hard time in your life if you’ve lost everything or you don’t even know what you lost,” Polis said after the tour. “A few days ago you were celebrating Christmas at home and hanging your stockings and now home and hearth have been destroyed.”
Most of the homes were among 991 that were destroyed in the fire. Eight businesses were also damaged by the fire at Louisville’s shopping centre, including a Subway shop and a nail salon. The fire also destroyed 12 businesses in Superior. These included a Target and Chuck E. Cheese store, the Tesla dealership, the hotel, and the town hall.
Both towns lie approximately 20 miles (30km) northeast of Denver. Together, they have 34,000 inhabitants.
The flames stopped about 100 yards (90 meters) from Susan Hill’s property in Louisville. To keep warm, she used a space heater to heat her bedroom and heated water bottles because her natural gas supply had been cut off.
As she recalled seeing the sky changing color, she choked up and remembered running out of town in panic with her son, college age and the cat, dog and firebox containing birth certificates and other documents.
“I don’t even know how to describe it,” she said. “It’s so sad. It’s so awful. It’s just devastating.”