Snow extinguishes fires that hit Colorado, in the US

The fires that destroyed entire neighborhoods in the state of Colorado, in the western United States, faded this Friday with the fall of snowfall that extinguished the last embers.

At least 500 houses were reduced to smoke and tens of thousands of people had to flee, but at the moment there is no record of deaths, “a miracle”, according to Governor Jared Polis.

The destruction is huge: Aerial images show entire streets reduced to smoldering ash. Unlike other fires, these have not been limited to rural areas and have reached the suburbs.

“The families had just a few minutes to pack everything they could – the animals, their children – into the car and drive away,” Polis told a news conference on Friday. It happened “in the blink of an eye.”

In the evening the flames dyed the sky orange, stoked by wind gusts of up to 160 km/h. The fire was apparently caused by electrical poles falling onto barren ground.

The number of houses destroyed is not yet known. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle put the number at more than 500 on Friday, saying he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was more than 1,000.”

The fire spread “in mosaic”, so that some neighborhoods were spared while houses next door burnedhe explained.

“When you see the devastation, it’s amazing that we don’t have a list of 100 missing people, but we don’t,” the sheriff said.

In a call to Governor Polis, the US President Joe Biden promised that “everything possible will be done to provide help to affected individuals and populations,” according to the White House.

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Friday the cenizas were covered with snow. The US weather service (NWS) has placed part of this mountainous state under a winter storm warning and expects snowfall in the coming days.

This snow “will help us,” said Pelle, who doubts the fire will spread again.

The local authorities lifted some of the evacuation orders overnight. But access to towns such as Superior, with 13,000 inhabitants, is still prohibited.

Patrick Kilbride, 72, was working when he received the evacuation order. He was only able to save his car and the clothes he was wearing, the rest, that is, the house in which he lived for three decades, was reduced to “ashes”, he himself told the Denver Post newspaper.

historic drought

Like much of the American West, Colorado, an arid state, has suffered from a drought for years exceptional.

With global warming, the intensity and frequency of droughts and heat waves are likely to increase further, creating conditions that favor wildfires.

In recent years, andhe American West has suffered unprecedented fires, especially in California and Oregon.

For Daniel Swain, a meteorologist at the University of UCLA, “it is hard to believe” that these fires occur in December. “But take a fall of record heat and dryness, with only two centimeters of snow so far this season, and add a storm with extreme gusts… and the result will be extremely dangerous fires that move very quickly,” the researcher tweeted.

Beyond the fires The United States has recently experienced other extreme events, like the passage of Storm Ida in New York and New Jersey in September and deadly tornadoes in December in Kentucky. At the moment it is unknown if the latter are linked to global warming.

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