Gov. Bill Ritter declared a state of emergency Tuesday as officials nearly doubled the fire’s estimated size to more than 7,100 acres, or 11 square miles, after better mapping. At one point, the plume from the fire could be seen in Wyoming, 90 miles to the north.
Authorities investigated reports that the fire started when a car crashed into a propane tank. They are also trying to figure out why an automated phone alert system failed for two hours during the evacuation, forcing authorities to go door-to-door to search for people in harm’s way.
The fire caused no known injuries as residents appeared to get out of the area in time. But many spent Tuesday in shelters wondering if their homes still existed. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said nine volunteer firefighters were among those who lost their homes.
Winds pushed the fire through three canyons where disease, drought and beetles that burrow under the bark have killed pine trees. The so-called bark beetles have killed more than 3.5 million acres of trees in Colorado and southeastern Wyoming, and the dead trees are seen as a significant wildfire threat.