Hundreds of families in Boulder County, Colorado, have lost their homes to the Marshall Fire, CBS Denver reports. Over 30,000 people evacuated as flames raced across the landscape and spotted to new areas in a matter of moments.
The fire erupted quickly due to dry conditions and hurricane force winds. Firefighters knew that initially they could not fight a fire driven by winds of 100 miles an hour and more. They along with police officers and sheriff deputies set to work getting people moving.
“They got on it early. The firemen and the police cars were coming through the neighborhood telling people to evacuate,” said evacuee Matthew Hoffman. “So people were on it and they got on it early. And because of that I think lives were saved.”
Many, like Elizabeth McKenzie, had only a matter of minutes to pack and leave. She was home with her three children when they were ordered to flee.
She said she gathered basic essentials, her kids and the family dog. The small car she was driving didn’t have enough room for their cats. She had to make the difficult decision to leave them behind and locked them in the basement so that smoke would be less likely to make its way to them if the house was spared.
For people who were in life or death situations, moments made a difference.
“I feel like I made it out with my life and that’s I think the most important thing,” said Jessi Delaplain, who lost her home to the fire.
“I gathered myself and I gathered my cats which was no easy feat to stuff them into the car. And I pulled out of the driveway and there were flames surrounding us.”
The evacuation should be studied to create a best practices understanding that could help in the future, noted Gary Briese, executive director of the Colorado State Fire Chiefs Association. Boulder County’s online emergency warning system does not have great participation numbers. But as CBS Denver reports, people found out.
The Marshall Fire was in a wide open area where smoke could be seen from a distance and the raging winds certainly grabbed attention of people. Firefighters and law enforcement moved rapidly though.
“I just think they were on their megaphones and they were going through neighborhood,” said Hoffman.
There were certainly traffic jams as people fled. But police were nearby to act.
“[Highway] 287 was an absolute parking lot,” said evacuee Aaron Frost. “So I took Empire Road I think it is up to 42. Again parking lot. And that’s where everything just stopped. We had almost no visibility. The police were escorting and detouring us around.”