Investigators focus on origin of Colorado wildfire

BOULDER (Colo.) -- Investigators searching for the cause of the Colorado wildfires that decimated nearly 1,000 buildings in Colorado have narrowed the scope of their search to an area close to Boulder. However, details could take days or even weeks, according the sheriff Monday.

Investigators focus on origin of Colorado wildfire

According to Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, the search is being conducted in an area where a passerby recorded video of a burning shed the day before the fire started. He stated that dozens of people had been interviewed so far.

Pelle stated that experts from the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and U.S. Forest Service participated in the investigation.

The sheriff refused to provide any additional details Monday, just a day after stating that the fire originated in the area with the burning shed.

Pelle declared that "the stakes were huge" and said that he wouldn't comment until he was ready to "announce some progress -- maybe that will be a week or perhaps that might be a month."

He said that getting it right was more important than the desire for speed that many people feel right now.

Experts agree that the winter fire was unusual, but similar events will be more frequent as the climate changes warm the planet and the suburbs become more fire-prone. After months of drought, which included dry winters and little snow in the first half of the year, the inferno occurred unusually late in 2015.

According to the Office of Emergency Management, no downed power lines were discovered in the area under investigation.

Teams continued to search Monday for two missing people, while survivors searched through the charred remains of their homes in an attempt to find anything.

Marshall Mesa, a Boulder County area is located near the Rocky Mountain foothills. It overlooks the densely populated suburbs to east. This area is surrounded with tinder-dry open space and private grasslands.

Authorities executed a warrant for a search over the weekend. However, the sheriff refused to give any further details and didn't comment on whether the fire was arson.

Unnamed sheriff's officials confirmed that several properties were being investigated, including one in Marshall Mesa, which is located about 2 miles (3 km) west of the hard-hit Superior town. On Monday, a National Guard Humvee prevented access to the area.

Crews were searching for a woman from Superior and a man who lived in Marshall. Pelle stated that the crews were using small tools and sifting debris manually.

Louisville Police Chief Dave Hayes stated that authorities used cadaver dogs as a precaution to check the properties damaged. Hayes stated that no one was missing from the severely damaged city but that it did not mean that they wouldn't find anything.

Gov. Jared Polis stated that only two people were missing in a fire this fast and large. On Thursday, tens of thousands of people were evacuated. Polis stressed the importance of following evacuation orders.

"Have fun when you receive a pre-evac notice or evacuation order. He said that most residents responded to the evacuation notice and are still with us today.

Although some homes were still burning to the foundations, it was not considered a threat immediately due to frigid temperatures Saturday and the snowy blanket.

The majority of the 991 buildings that were destroyed in the fire were houses. The fire also destroyed eight businesses in a Louisville shopping center, including a Subway restaurant and a nail salon. Twelve businesses were also damaged in Superior, including a Target and a Chuck E. Cheese pizza, a Tesla car dealership and a hotel.

These two towns are located about 20 miles (30 km) northwest Denver and have a combined total population of 34,000.

Utility crews visited all the homes to see if natural gas or electricity could be safely restored.

"Is there toxic fumes?" Nancy Alderson asked Nancy Alderson if it was okay to return in. She expressed concern about the plastics and other materials that were consumed during the fire.

Authorities distributed thousands of space heaters over the weekend to families who had endured freezing temperatures for several days inside their homes.

Louisville resident Carl Johns exclaimed, "What a relief!" as a utility worker turned on the gas valve and entered Johns' house to check that appliances were lit up. Since Thursday, he had been evacuated by police who drove through the neighborhood and exhorted everyone to get out of the area.

Some of his neighbors were not so fortunate. A row of homes on fire sat down the street.

Johns stated, "That just blows my mind," "The houses aren’t there and you don’t recognize your block."

Boulder Valley School District, which is responsible for the wildfire zone, plans to resume classes on Wednesday as planned and provide counseling services to students and staff who were affected by the flames. The University of Colorado, Boulder has delayed in-person classes until Jan. 24, with remote learning beginning Jan. 10.

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