What we know about the ‘devastating’ Colorado fires

Since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August, the United States has evacuated more than 75,000 Afghans through Operation Allies Welcome. Roughly 23,000 evacuees remain on six military bases across the U.S., but more than 50,000 have been placed in local communities. After a tumultuous journey, these refugees are now tasked with rebuilding lives in a new country. Amna Nawaz reports.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    As we reported, tens of thousands of people in Colorado were forced to evacuate quickly yesterday. Wind-fueled fires swept swiftly through suburban neighborhoods outside of Denver, causing significant property damage.

    As Stephanie Sy reports, residents there remain on edge, as some areas are still too dangerous to access.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Whole neighborhoods in Boulder County, Colorado, this morning are in smoldering ruin. The winds eventually died down overnight, and, today, snow is providing some relief, but dangers remain.

  • Joe Pelle, Boulder County, Colorado, Sheriff:

    I know residents want to get back to their homes as soon as possible to assess damage. In many of those neighborhoods that are currently blocked off, it's still too dangerous to return.

    We saw still-active fire in many places this morning, and we saw downed power lines. We saw a lot of risk that is — we're still trying to mitigate.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The fast-moving grass fires, accelerated by hurricane-force winds gusting up to 105 miles per hour, destroyed hundreds of homes. A dry winter also helped fuel the Marshall Fire.

    At least one first responder and several others are injured. but it could have been much worse, said Colorado Governor Jared Polis.

  • Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO):

    So far, it looks like the two major hospitals in the areas were spared. Looks like schools were spared. And we might have our very own New Year's miracle on our hands if it holds up that there was no loss of life.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Polis declared a state of emergency yesterday, and said President Biden has approved an expedited disaster declaration.

    The towns of Louisville and Superior appear to have suffered the most. Located about 20 miles northwest of Denver, some 34,000 residents there were ordered to evacuate ahead of the fires.

    One of them was Brent Parrish. He returned to Louisville this morning to find his home still standing.

    Brent Parrish, Resident of Louisville, Colorado: We were completely overwhelmed with relief, with the fact that we have a place — that we don't have to rebuild, and then just really sad for the neighborhood, because, I mean, yes, it's devastating.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    He says he's figuring out next steps.

  • Brent Parrish:

    My biggest concern right now is my kids and their safety, and whether it's really safe to be here or not, whether there's smoke damage that they're inhaling, whether there's chemicals that they're inhaling from a fire, when the water is going to be safe to drink.

    I haven't even looked at our fridge, but I'm sure all our food is bad, so we have got to find some food.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    A widely shared video inside a Chuck E. Cheese showed how quickly the fire spread in Superior on Thursday. Parents wrangled their kids and dashed for the exits, panic rising. The winds were so strong, they had to force open the doors.

    Fire investigators are focused on downed power lines near the fire's start as they try to uncover the origins of the blaze, now considered the most destructive in Colorado's history. From above, the extent of the damage is clear. So many families will have to rebuild in the new year what was lost in the old.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.

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