‘All I could see was white plumes of smoke, and then the entire sky was covered for miles – so I had a good guess the house was probably toast’
Daniel Ryland was on the highway on Thursday, on his way home from work near Denver, when he first spotted the fires.
“All I could see was white plumes of smoke, and then the entire sky was covered for miles – so I had a good guess the house was probably toast,“ 他说 独立. “But I didn’t really know until I started seeing pictures yesterday.”
The 33-year-old gas technician lived in a three-bedroom home with roommates in Superior – 关于 17 miles northwest of Denver – which was particularly badly hit as fast-moving wildfires swept through Boulder County and surrounding areas. An estimated 1,000 homes and businesses were destroyed in historic blazes sparked by dry conditions and winds over 100mph.
It wasn’t long before Mr Ryland received a frantic call from one of his housemates asking him to quickly get home and rescue the cat and dog they’d been looking after for a friend. But he couldn’t get through.
“I had cops turn me around; they’re like, ‘You can’t go in. It’s too dangerous’,“ 他说.
As bad as Mr Ryland thought the situation was, he would only later realise just how dire conditions had been at his former home.
“The roommate that was home, when I talked to him a little later, I asked him, ‘Are you good? Where are you at?’ He said he was at the hospital with our neighbour,“ 他说.
“Our neighbour had gotten burns from how bad the wind was whipping the fire around.”
His roommate, Mr Ryland says, “came outside, opened the window [和] the street was on fire, grass was on fire.”
That roommate saw the neighbour with burns and whisked her to the hospital as conditions intensified, Mr Ryland says.
Similar scenes were playing out across the region as shocked and panicked residents were caught off-guard by the fires. Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency.
“That’s partially due to all of the downed power lines that was caused by the winds, as well as the fire knocking more things over, 树木,” Mr Ryland tells 独立. “I know the National Guard’s out there protecting it from looters, as well, then with the snow and whatnot, I know it’s going to take them a while to clear everything out.”
他加了: “They’re not allowing anybody back for about a week.
“We’re in a weird spot with the wind and the weather change and then everything kind of being a tinderbox.
“We’ve had bad wildfires the last three years in the mountains that have affected us in the city, where the air quality’s been pretty poor (但) … not this close to population.
“This is a freak wind accident, pretty much.”
As mentioned by Mr Ryland, authorities were still keeping residents from returning to many hard-hit neighbourhoods for safety reasons.
In Superior and Louisville on Saturday, officials announced that water had been cut off. Boil notices had previously been issued after water demands to put out the fires left residences with untreated water.
Traumatised locals were also dealing with curtailed gas services.
在周五, one mother, Kathy Patterson, 对...说 独立 at a YMCA in Lafayette, one of a half-dozen refuges set up for those displaced by the fire.
“Thank God for the snow, but again – now we have to worry about frozen pipes,” Ms Patterson said. “The whole town of Louisville has no gas … we talked to the gas guys, and they were going around to individual houses cutting off the main meter.”
She was told “it might take a few days, because they have to isolate the burn area and cut off their gas before everybody’s back on again”.
The outpouring of support has been overwhelming in Colorado – with shelters so “overrun” by donations that Boulder County Sheriff on Saturday asked the well-meaning public to cease dropping off items – and multiple GoFundMe accounts have been set up for those affected by the fires, including one organised by a friend of Mr Ryland.