Colorado sheriff: Wildfire may have destroyed up to 1,000 homes

Marshall Fire damage assessments still ongoing as governor declares ‘unimaginable’ disaster

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A Colorado sheriff who is helping assess damage caused by a wildfire that spread rapidly across an area just outside Denver said Friday he would "not be surprised" if up to 1,000 homes were lost. 

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle made the remark while announcing there were no reports of fatalities or casualties, adding that the one person missing after the Marshall Fire tore through the communities of Louisville and Superior on Thursday has been accounted for and is well. 

"I would estimate it is going to be at least 500 homes, I would not be surprised if it’s 1,000," Pelle told a reporter Friday when asked about the extent of the damage. 

A man walks a foot path Friday near the remains of homes burned by wildfires after they ripped through a development in Superior, Colo. 

A man walks a foot path Friday near the remains of homes burned by wildfires after they ripped through a development in Superior, Colo.  (AP/David Zalubowski)

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A total damage assessment is still ongoing – but Pelle, who on Friday morning flew over the 6,000 acres burned in the fire – said "we did see entire subdivisions... that are totally gone." 

"I know residents want to get back to their homes as soon as possible to assess damage. In many of those neighborhoods that are currently blocked off it’s still too dangerous to return," he added. "We saw active fire in many places this morning. We saw downed power lines. We saw a lot of risk that we are still trying to mitigate." 

Reports from the scene Thursday described a ferocious blaze that became more devastating because the area is suffering from a severe drought. The fire spread with the help of 105 mph wind gusts.  

Around 30,000 people were forced to evacuate – and users took to social media to post their views from airplanes as they flew past the flames. 

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Around three to six inches of snow is expected to fall on the region late Friday into Saturday. The weather pattern should bring moisture to the drought-stricken area and help snuff out the last pockets of flames, according to Pelle. 

"At this point, as long as the weather holds up here, there’s not going to be substantial additional damage from this fire," Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Friday. 

Polis said he spoke with President Biden this morning, who pledged federal assistance in the wake of the disaster. 

"The last 24 hours have been devastating. It’s really unimaginable. It’s hard to speak about," Polis said, adding that "the president sends his regards to people of Colorado and those who are directly impacted." 

The remains of homes smolder Friday after wildfires ripped through a development in Superior, Colo. 

The remains of homes smolder Friday after wildfires ripped through a development in Superior, Colo.  (AP/David Zalubowski)

In a statement, the White House said "Governor Polis described the impacts and the need for additional Federal support, and the President assured him that every effort will be made to provide immediate help to people in the impacted communities." 

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The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation.  

"We do know we had power lines down in the area of the origin of the fire," Pelle said. "The origin of the fire hasn’t been confirmed, it’s suspected to be power lines but we are investigating today." 

Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.