Business administration freshman Josh Candy smelled the smoke and saw the flames of the Marshall fire from his bedroom window. Before he had any time to process exactly what was going on, he and his family quickly grabbed their dog and cat, took pictures of family photos and said goodbye to their house thinking they would never come home again.
Fast-moving wildfires across Boulder, Colo. forced residents to leave their homes in a blink of an eye on Dec. 30, in what is considered the most destructive fire in Colorado history: the Marshall fire. Some of the residents affected are Cal Poly students.
The fire started in South Boulder and was catalyzed by 100 mph winds during a historic drought. According to Times-Call, the fire burned across 6,000 acres and destroyed more than 900 homes and businesses in parts of Superior and Louisville.
Investigators initially believed the fire started because of the combination of drought, winds and power lines being knocked over. However, investigators have since ruled that possibility out and are now looking into a video that shows a structure on fire on property owned by a Christian fundamentalist cult called the Twelve Tribes. According to the New York Times, witnesses saw a structure on fire before the Marshall fire quickly began.
Students who went home to the Boulder area for winter break faced evacuations and threats to their homes.
Candy was able to see the fire burning from outside of his window.
“I was about to throw up, that’s how scared I was,” Candy said.
The air quality was nothing that Candy said he has ever seen before.
“I would walk out of my house and just inhale ash and not be able to breathe,” he said.
The fire was 100 meters from Candy’s home. He said that he and his family had to flee in an instant.
“We left thinking we weren’t going to come back to our house,” Candy said.
Candy was able to return back to his house the next day without there being any damage.
Child development freshman Brooke Gordon lives 15 minutes away from where the fire was. During the fire, the power in her home was down.
“My mom went a little bit into panic mode and started getting all the lanterns and flashlights from the basement, but we knew we would be fine and that the fire was blowing the opposite way,” Gordon said.
Business administration freshman Nick Mitchell was in Mexico when he heard about the fires burning close to his home.
“My phone was blowing up about the fires and I was freaking out because there was really nothing my family and I could do about it from Mexico,” Mitchell said. “Thankfully the winds changed directions and my house is fine.”
Wildfires are common in Colorado, but more so in rural areas.
“This was crazy because the fire was in an urban area with so many homes and businesses,” Mitchell said. “It’s a hub.”
Gordon, Mitchell and Candy all have friends who have lost their homes.
“So many people from my high school live in that area,” Mitchell said. “I know a family that lost their house and their business. [It’s] super personal.”
The day after the fire, New Year’s Eve, Colorado was met with almost a foot of snow which extinguished the fire. But the damage had already been done.
“My heart goes out to the families that were seriously affected,” Gordon said. “It was such a devastating day.”