BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The smoke plume from the fires that raged through Boulder County last Thursday could be seen from space. Whipped by intense wind, the fires burned over 6,000 acres in about 24 hours — destroying nearly 1,000 homes. NASA described it as a “winter urban firestorm.”
The fires, including the Marshall Fire, destroyed 553 homes in Louisville, 332 homes in Superior and 106 homes in outlying areas, including Eldorado Canyon.
“The smoke plume, which was also visible on radar, stretched about 60 miles (100 kilometers) over Colorado’s eastern plains at the time,” NASA officials stated on social media on Tuesday.
“The fire also generated its own weather: the rising heat created a low-pressure area that drew surface winds toward the fire from all directions,” NASA experts explained.
Winds up to 105 miles per hour were recorded in the area during the fires.
“High winds and wildfires are not uncommon on the Front Range, but a December wildfire is; the normal fire season lasts from May to September,” NASA researchers stated. “One recent study found that increases in extreme fire weather are being driven by decreases in atmospheric humidity and increasing temperatures.”
“In 2021, Colorado saw an unseasonably warm summer and fall, coupled with record dryness,” they noted. “The warm, dry spell followed an unusually wet spring, which reduced wildfires through the summer but fueled the growth of vegetation that dried out and provided ample tinder for the December fire.”