Estimate of Damages From Colorado Wildfires is a Whopping $513 Million From 1-Day Blaze

The wildfire that tore through Colorado last week caused over $513 million in damage, and destroyed about 1,100 homes and other buildings, according to an updated estimate from state officials Thursday. The carnage makes it the most destructive fire in Colorado history.

The last estimate marked 991 buildings destroyed. The $513 million is the first financial estimate of the damage from a fire that forced thousands to evacuate their homes.

At least two people are currently missing and officials reported that remains have been found at one location.

Law enforcement and fire investigators are still unsure what caused the fire which led 35,000 residents to flee their homes as winds peaking at 100 MPH whipped through the state, fueling the expansion of the fire that eventually encompassed over nine square miles.

However, an easily identifiable explanation for how the fire spread so quickly is that 90 percent of Boulder County is experiencing severe or extreme drought conditions. Several areas of the state haven't seen significant rain since last summer.

The updated building and damage totals include barns, sheds and other non-residential buildings, although Boulder County officials said the vast majority of buildings that were destroyed by the fire were homes.

President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit the area Friday to evaluate the damage.

Colorado, Fire Damage, Boulder, $513 Million
The word OK is spray painted on the remains of a home in a neighborhood decimated by the Dec. 30 wildfire in Louisville, Colorado. Officials said Thursday the fire destroyed nearly 1,100 buildings and caused an estimated $513 million in damage. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Boulder County released the new totals after further assessing the suburban area located between Denver and Boulder where entire neighborhoods were charred.

Experts say similar events will become more common as climate change warms the planet and suburbs grow in fire-prone areas.

A 2013 fire outside Colorado Springs destroyed 489 homes and killed two people.

In 2020, Colorado also suffered its three largest wildfires in recorded history as a prolonged drought holds its grip on the Western U.S.

The worst damage was in and around Louisville and Superior, neighboring towns about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Denver with a combined population of 34,000.

Seven commercial structures were destroyed and 30 damaged, the county said. Losses to commercial buildings were still being calculated.

Federal and state investigators have interviewed dozens of people as they work to determine what started the fire. Their efforts are focused on an area near Boulder where a passer-by captured video of a burning shed on the day the fire began.

Disaster experts say the number of possible casualties is remarkably low given how fast the fire ripped through subdivisions and especially considering a public alert system did not reach everyone. Boulder County officials said Thursday that emergency alerts were sent to more than 24,000 contacts. Some 35,000 people fled their homes.

One of the destroyed houses was owned by Bill Stephens, the pastor at Ascent Community Church in Louisville, who said Thursday that at least 17 members of his congregation also lost their homes in the fire. Stephens was at a disaster assistance center picking up a $500 check from the Red Cross to help buy necessities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.