LOUISVILLE, Colo. — It took only a few hours for the flames to cut an unimaginable path of destruction across the drought-starved neighborhoods between Denver and Boulder.
By Friday morning, as smoke from the most damaging wildfire in state history cleared, more than 500 homes, and possibly as many as 1,000, had been destroyed. Hundreds of people who had hastily fled returned to ruins, everything they owned incinerated in the fast-moving blaze. Entire neighborhoods had been reduced to ashes.
wildfires in the American West have been worsening — growing larger, spreading faster and reaching into mountainous elevations that were once too wet and cool to have supported fierce fires. What was once a seasonal phenomenon has become a year-round menace, with fires burning later into the fall and into the winter.
Recent research has suggested that heat and dryness associated with global warming are major reasons for the increasing prevalence of bigger and stronger fires, as rainfall patterns have been disrupted, snow melts earlier and meadows and forests are scorched into kindling.
Colorado Climate Center, said the Boulder region had experienced a wet spring followed by months that were “extremely dry, since about the middle of summer.” He added that “an event like this puts into context how dangerous and how potentially deadly winter season fires that occur primarily over grassland can be.”