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Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and thousands of people have been forced to flee as a massive wildfire tore through several US towns on Thursday evening.
Desperate residents in cars were seen streaming out of Superior and Louisville near Denver in Colorado, United States as evacuation orders were given.
A hotel and a shopping mall also burnt down in the disaster near the Rocky mountains, and the state Governor of Colorado Jared Polis has now declared a state of emergency.
The fire is thought to have been started by sparks from a fallen power line which was brought down by heavy winds that spread it across surrounding grassland, according to Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle.
The Sheriff announced that the blaze had spread over 1,600 acres of land and destroyed as many as 600 homes, and described it as a "horrific event".
Governor Polis meanwhile labelled the fire a "force of nature", and revealed that resources from the federal government in Washington DC would be deployed.
All aircraft in the county of Boulder have been grounded because of the huge plumes of smoke, meaning that it has not been possible to airlift people away from the blaze.
Climate scientist Daniel Swain, who reported hearing explosions as ranch buildings went up in flames, said he was shocked that such strong fires were breaking out in December.
He tweeted: “Genuinely hard to believe this is happening in late December in Boulder, CO”
“But take a record warm & dry fall, only 1 inch of snow so far this season, & add an extreme (100mph+) downslope windstorm … and extremely fast moving/dangerous fires are the result.”
According to The Guardian, the Boulder area received only 1.6 inches of rainfall between August and December this year, which is far below the average of 6.8 inches.
Forecasters from the US National Weather Service said that firefighting efforts would be helped by calmer winds during the night.
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