The Colorado forest fire last week caused more than $ 513 million in damage and destroyed about 1,100 homes and other buildings, according to an updated estimate from state officials on Thursday. The carnage makes it the most destructive fire in Colorado history.
The latest estimate marked 991 buildings destroyed. The $ 513 million is the first financial estimate of damage from a fire that has forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes.
At least two people are currently missing and authorities have reported that remains were found at one location.
Law enforcement and fire investigators still don’t know what caused the blaze that led 35,000 residents to flee their homes as winds peaking at 100 mph swept through the state, fueling the expansion of the fire that eventually covered over nine square miles.
However, an easily identifiable explanation for how the fire spread so quickly is that 90 percent of Boulder County experiences severe or extreme drought conditions. Several areas of the state have not seen significant rain since last summer.
The updated building and damage totals include barns, sheds and other non-residential buildings, although Boulder County officials said the vast majority of buildings destroyed by the fire were homes.
President Joe Biden is due to visit the region on Friday to assess the damage.
Boulder County released the new totals after further assessing the suburban area between Denver and Boulder, where entire neighborhoods were charred.
Experts say similar events will become more frequent as climate change warms the planet and suburbs expand in areas prone to fires.
A 2013 fire outside Colorado Springs destroyed 489 homes and killed two people.
In 2020, Colorado also suffered its three largest wildfires in recorded history as a prolonged drought maintains its grip on the western United States.
The worst damage occurred in and around Louisville and Superior, neighboring towns about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Denver with a combined population of 34,000.
Seven commercial structures were destroyed and 30 damaged, the county said. Losses from commercial buildings were still being calculated.
Federal and state investigators interviewed dozens of people as they worked to determine what started the blaze. Their efforts are focused on an area near Boulder where a passerby captured video of a burning shed the day the blaze started.
Disaster experts say the number of possible casualties is remarkably low considering how quickly the fire ravaged the housing estates and especially considering the fact that a public warning system has not reached everyone. . Boulder County officials said Thursday that emergency alerts had been sent to more than 24,000 contacts. Some 35,000 people have fled their homes.
One of the destroyed homes belonged to Bill Stephens, the pastor of Ascent Community Church in Louisville, who said Thursday that at least 17 members of his congregation also lost their homes in the blaze. Stephens was at a disaster relief center to collect a check for $ 500 from the Red Cross to help buy basic necessities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.