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A firefighter walks through the smoke and haze after a wildfire swept through the area in Louisville, Colorado. Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images.

Ferocious hurricane-force winds helped spark wildfires that spread to over 1,600 acres and prompted hasty evacuations near Denver, Colorado, including the entire town of Superior and city of Louisville.

The latest: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon as a result of the fires, enabling the government to access emergency disaster funds in response to the situation.

  • About 580 homes were lost in Superior, Boulder sheriff Joe Pelle said. A hotel and a shopping center were also burned, Pelle added.
  • He said that there was one reported injury, but that there likely could be more injuries and deaths because of how fast the fire moved. As of Thursday, there are no missing persons reports.
  • The highest wind gusts on Thursday was a staggering 115 mph, per NWS Boulder.

Driving the news: Several small grass fires were sparked in the region by downed power lines and blown transformers, Fox 31 Denver reported.

  • The Boulder Office of Emergency Management has opened evacuation sites for two identified fires, the Marshall Fire and Middle Fork Fire.
  • Pell said the preliminarily cause of the fires may be due to downed power lines, but an actual determination will come later in the week.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

What they're saying: "Prayers for thousands of families evacuating from the fires in Superior and Boulder County. Fast winds are spreading flames quickly and all aircraft are grounded," Polis tweeted.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

The big picture: The blazes have been fueled by extremely strong, down-sloping winds, which involve air moving off the Rocky Mountains and down the foothills, into communities including Boulder. These winds have exceeded 100 mph at times, the equivalent of a strong Category 1 hurricane.

  • Wildfires in northern Colorado are unusual for this time of year, but the area is experiencing a severe long-term drought. This is providing the blazes with an ample supply of dry grasses and other fuels to burn.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
  • Much of Colorado, including Denver, is expecting a significant winter storm to hit Friday, which along with colder temperatures and higher humidity levels could help firefighters bring the blazes under control.
  • Satellite imagery has shown heat signatures located close to areas where homes and businesses are located.

Andrew Freedman contributed reporting.

Editor's note: This headline and story have been corrected to say the fires are near Denver, Colorado, not in the Denver metro area.

Go deeper

In photos: 2021's devastating climate disasters

Firefighters work on a wildfire in the Sequoia National Forest near Johnsondale, Calif., in September 2021. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Climate disasters in 2021 affected millions of lives, caused billions of dollars in economic loss across the world and brought into stark reality the perils of higher temperatures and climate change in general.

The big picture: Early data has ranked 2021 as the sixth warmest year on record. Climatologists have warned that increased surface temperatures make floods, droughts, heat and cold waves, wildfires and tropical storms and hurricanes more common and intense.

Why the Fed might want to jolt the markets

Fed chair Jerome Powell at a hearing earlier this month. Photo: Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images

So far, financial markets are cooperating nicely with the Federal Reserve's efforts to restrain inflation. They're doing the Fed's work for it by creating tighter financial conditions, in a distinctly non-panicky way.

  • But as the central bank's policymakers meet this week, an underlying question they face is whether the adjustment is happening too slowly.
Kate Marino, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Omicron outbreaks were bad for business in January

Data: New York Federal Reserve Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Emerging anecdotal evidence shows just how hard the recent rise in COVID-19 cases hit businesses in early January — but that hasn't hurt some business leaders’ longer-term views of their companies' prospects.

Why it matters: Increasingly, the economic recovery has come in fits and starts that move in tandem with new peaks in cases. Look no further than the thousands of canceled flights and shuttered Broadway theaters in the wake of the Omicron variant's spread over the last few months.