Two people missing in wake of Marshall fire, Boulder emergency officials say

As emergency responders sift through the debris left behind by the Marshall fire, two people have yet to be found, Boulder officials confirmed Saturday, despite officials’ earlier declarations that nobody was still missing in the wake of this week’s destructive wildfire.

Those early reports were incorrect, said Jennifer Churchill, a spokeswoman for the Boulder Office of Emergency Management, asking for “grace” after the error.

Many different agencies were working to extinguish hot spots, investigate the fire, keep people out of the evacuation area and more, she said, and the mixup stemmed from all those different people tackling everything at once.

“We thought we were at zero… but that was incorrect,” Churchill said. “Information is coming from multiple channels, we’re dealing with COVID… our communication channels were certainly stretched.”

While the fire tore through Superior and Louisville, hundreds of people initially were reported as missing, Churchill said. Firefighters, police, sheriff’s deputies and other emergency officials started to check each one off the list as they were found.

“We were able to clear all but two of them,” Churchill said.

Boulder County emergency officials and Gov. Jared Polis previously had hailed the lack of fatalities or even missing persons as miraculous. At a news conference Friday, Sheriff Joe Pelle had said there were no people considered to be unaccounted for in the fire zone.

“We might have our very own New Year’s miracle on our hands if it holds up that there’s no loss of life,” Polis said at the news conference.

Churchill declined to identify the missing people or say when or where they were lost.

But Hutch Armstrong told 9News that his grandmother-in-law, 91-year-old Nadine Turnbull, was one of the two missing. Family members weren’t able to help her out of her Original Town Superior home during the fire.

“They tried to go out the front door with the neighbor,” Armstrong told 9News. “It was engulfed. Checked the back door, it was engulfed.”

Additional information wasn’t immediately available on the second missing person and Churchill said more details could be released Saturday.

So far, officials say Thursday’s wildfire — exacerbated by 100-mph winds — burned more than 6,000 acres across Boulder County, destroying as many as 1,000 homes and businesses in Superior and Louisville.

Officials first thought downed power lines sparked the fire, but have been unable to confirm its origin. The abnormally dry conditions, fueled by climate change, led to what is now the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history.

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