Flakes of flaming ash the size of dinner plates floated down from the sky above Christina Eisert’s home in Superior Thursday afternoon. She watched as flames fell on her neighbor’s home. When she opened the front door of her house, she felt the heat of the fire on her skin.
Eisert was driving her two sons to get haircuts when she realized the Marshall fire would likely destroy her home in the Sagamore subdivision. Her house is one of up to 600 feared destroyed in the wind-fueled fire that forced thousands east of Boulder to evacuate Thursday.
Earlier Thursday, Eisert opened her front door and thought someone was using a wood-burning stove, but quickly realized it was more serious as dark gray smoke swept across the sky above the rooftops of her neighbors’ homes. Fire trucks streamed into her community.
Neighbors started to panic, but Eisert hadn’t received any instruction to evacuate yet and headed toward the hairdresser with 14-year-old Asher and 13-year-old Ansel.
“It didn’t seem like the whole universe was on fire yet,” she recalled. But it wasn’t long before she knew her house, and her two dogs, were in danger.
Through the afternoon, winds picked up — reaching 110 mph gusts — and fueled the fire until it forced evacuations in Superior and then soon later, Louisville. The fire knocked out power to thousands and injured at least six people who were treated for burns.
“This is going to burn our house, I could just tell. The heat, the wind was so fast. It was like a fire hurricane or a fire tornado. The heat and the smoke and wind. I don’t know how to describe it,” she said.
She quickly drove back home and lured her two shepherd-husky mixes out of the house “in the absolute nick of time,” Eisert told The Colorado Sun on Thursday night while choking up. “You couldn’t see. You couldn’t breathe.”
She heard a high-pitched squealing sound coming from her front windows, likely moments before they shattered from the heat. Eisert ran to the car without any belongings.
Hundreds of cars blocked the roads outside her home as a nearby Costco was being evacuated and neighbors fled the flames, she said.
“I felt like the fire was bearing down on us so I pulled the car off the road into the park,” Eisert said. The smoke became so thick she couldn’t see, so with her hand on the horn, she drove through the park to evade the stalled cars, she said.
“It was like fight or flight,” Eisert said. “I just felt every molecule in my body wanting to get my children out of this fire.”
She arrived at her mother’s home in Broomfield spitting up ash and looking like “the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins,” Eisert said. Her ears and hair were filled with ash.
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Eisert recently moved from Austin and still had most of her belongings in boxes. She was renting her home, waiting to find a place to buy.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said during a news conference Thursday evening that 370 homes were destroyed in the Sagamore neighborhood and more than 200 additional homes may have been lost in Old Town Superior. It’s still unknown how many homes were lost in Louisville and unincorporated areas of Boulder County.
“We left with absolutely nothing. I have my purse, I have my phone, that’s it. Everything is gone, I am certain of it,” she said, remembering family photos in her basement that might have been destroyed in the flames.
“It’s funny because I honestly don’t care,” Eisert said. “I just felt so close to being in real physical danger with the children. It is very eye-opening and clarifying.”