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Three people have gone missing after being caught in a devastating wildfire in Colorado

DENVER, Jan. 1 (Reuters) – A wildfire that spread through two cities in Boulder County, Colorado, left three people missing and feared dead, prompting the evacuation of thousands of people and destroying nearly 1,000 homes, officials said Saturday.

Authorities initially said there were no reports of casualties or missing residents following a rare urban wildfire that erupted Thursday morning in the northern suburbs of the Denver metropolitan area.

Winds of up to 100 miles per hour (160 km / h) pushed flames eastward into the cities of Superior and Louisville, prompting both communities to evacuate.

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In about two hours, authorities said, 6,000 acres were burned.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Belle said the three men who went missing, he refused to identify, all of whom lived in burned-out homes.

A view shows the remains of houses destroyed by the Marshall Fire in Louisville, Colorado, USA on December 31, 2021. REUTERS / Alyson McClaran

“The existing structures of these people will be completely destroyed and covered with about eight inches of snow,” Belle told a news conference Saturday, adding that dead dogs will be sent to search the residences on Sunday.

Belle said 991 homes were destroyed in the unconnected areas of Superior, Louisville and County, the most devastating wildfire in terms of lost homes in state history.

Officials initially said the sparks may have ignited from the power lines that were downed by the hurricane, but a study by utility company Xcel Energy found no damaged or fallen lines near where the fire was believed to have occurred.

Belle said detectives are exploring all avenues to determine what caused the fire. Based on a tip, the sheriff said a search warrant had been issued for the investigation, but declined to provide any details.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement that US President Joe Biden had declared the area a national disaster and released federal funds to assist in efforts to rescue affected people and businesses.

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Report by Keith Kaufman; Editing Daniel Wallis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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