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2 people are unaccounted for after a wildfire ripped through Colorado neighborhood


In Colorado, two people are still unaccounted for after a wildfire ripped through a Denver suburb. The flames destroyed almost a thousand homes. And now families are trying to figure out where to go and what to do as they wait for help. Colorado Public Radio's Allison Sherry reports.

ALLISON SHERRY, BYLINE: On Sunday, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell toured the ashy remains of more than a dozen neighborhoods in Boulder County decimated by a grassland fire last Thursday.


DEANNE CRISWELL: The absolute devastation that these communities have experienced is shocking, right? I've been watching the pictures over the last day. And it really doesn't do it justice until you see it firsthand.

SHERRY: The fire ignited near a shed in a rural part of the county during an extreme windstorm, with gusts over 100 miles per hour. The Denver metro area is in a drought, only receiving about an inch of rain since July. Very quickly, whole subdivisions were engulfed in flames. Christina Eisert (ph) was driving her two teenage sons to get haircuts.

CHRISTINA EISERT: The whole street was like a fire hurricane, just smoke, like, I'd say, dinner-plate sized pieces of ash falling everywhere with burning edges. I'm sure that it was from my neighbor's house a block away burning already.

SHERRY: Eisert turned around and rushed home to get her dogs.

EISERT: The house was filling with smoke. The dogs were frozen with fear. And I said to myself, I'll give them until the count of five. And if they don't come, I'll just leave the door open. And we have to run. They came, which I'm so happy about. They came. They just ran down the stairs and got into the car. I slammed the door. I got in the front seat. And I yelled out to everyone, we don't leave anyone behind.

SHERRY: For Eisert and the thousands of others, there is now a large question mark about where to go. It was already a very tight housing market. And it will take a long time to rebuild. Many people are bunking with friends or family temporarily. Colorado Governor Jared Polis said on Sunday they're trying to figure it all out.


JARED POLIS: This is, really, a crisis in fast motion the way that this has quickly moved to destroy close to 1,000 homes and many more damaged, affecting many more thousands of people, some of whom are - whose homes are intact, are returning home. Others are awaiting natural gas being turned on.

SHERRY: Focus, too, has shifted to how the fire started. The Boulder County sheriff says they can't tell yet whether it was natural or human-caused. The FBI is helping investigate. There are some silver linings here. It was one of the most successful rapid evacuation efforts in the history of large wildfires in the country. And the metro area has since gotten several inches of snow, which has drenched the ground. But still, so much is unknown for those who no longer have a place to live.

For NPR News, I'm Allison Sherry in Boulder County, Colo.


Allison Sherry