A Fiery Miracle

Boulder suffered one of the worst forest fires in Colorado history.


Photo Courtesy of CNN

With about 45 minutes left on the road trip, I woke up from my nap and glanced out of the window. I was startled to see hazy-like fog fill the skies and the scenic mountains of Colorado vanished. Concerned, I asked my parents what was going on. My father informed me and my sister that there was a forest fire in Boulder, our final stop in our seven day trip. Never would I have imagined I would experience a natural disaster first hand quite like this. 

Before we could enter Boulder, we had to pass through Louisville, a town of about 20,000 in Boulder County. Right as we entered Louisville, there were multiple police officers with their cars blocking the road, unabling us to continue our journey. Louisville almost symbolized a ghost town, there was nobody on the streets and the atmosphere was almost desert-like. That was when I realized that Louisville had been evacuated from the devastating forest fire. We drove around the town to find a way to escape. Finally, after seeing hundreds of cars lining up on a highway, we found a getaway. I will never forget this day, Thursday, December 30, 2021, the day when Colorado faced it’s worst forest fire in its state history. 

The view of Louisville up in flames from a passenger’s perspective. (Photo by Tara Binte Sharil)

On Thursday morning, the people of Louisville and it’s neighbor, Superior, were unknowingly facing one of Colorado’s most destructive fires. There were two fires that caused the devastation. The first was the Marshall Fire, which burned 1,600 acres of land and spread east across the two towns. The other fire, Middle Fork Fire, was quickly put out. With the two fires causing mayhem in the area, Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency in the area. Louisville and Superior, four miles between each other, were quickly evacuated. 

The fire started on Thursday morning and continued all day. Although the cause of the fires is currently under investigation, the rapid spreading of the fires was caused by widespread wind gusts. The area was facing gruelling wind gusts of up to 80-115 mph. With the historic windstorm blowing across the area, the forest fires began burning down trees, and soon, within a blink of an eye, made its way down to people’s homes. 

There was nothing the Boulder firefighters could do, but watch as the catastrophic fires destroyed the two towns. “[There was] very little time to get out, very little time to even get the most important parts of your life and, yes, it’ll be a difficult process for Colorado families who are directly affected to rebuild their lives,” Polis said.

Superior Mayor Clint Folsom “witnessed houses just exploding right before [his] eyes” on Thursday evening, he told CNN. “It was one of the most disturbing situations I have ever been in,” Folsom said. 

The highway out of Louisville began to clog up. As people desperately tried to leave, many cars simultaneously turned back to see how much damage was caused. All hope seemed to have been lost when looking at the number of houses lost, how much land was demolished, and worst of all, how much the people of Louisville and Superior had suffered.  

Photo by Helen H. Richardson of CNN

The orange flames lit up the town as the night dawned upon Louisville. People stood by as their homes were consumed by the fire and the picturesque mountains of Boulder were enveloped by the wildfire smoke. Shelters in schools and hospitals were opened to cater those without a place to go. 

There was only one thing that could save this catastrophe. The only hope left was a snowstorm that was on its way to Boulder later in the early morning. Meteorologists anticipated a snowstorm starting from 5 am on Friday with about 5-10 inches of snow by Saturday. By Saturday night, the snow had extinguished the fires, leaving only piles of ash and rubble. 

According to NPR, more than 300,000 people were evacuated from Louisville and Superior. By Saturday, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle counted 991 homes destroyed. But thankfully, there were no deaths and all those missing were found. 

2021 was already a very tough year for everyone, and by the way I see it, Boulder ended the year on the lowest note possible. However, Polis thought of this disaster in another perspective. With the snowstorm saving the day, Polis called it a “New Year’s miracle.”