More than 43,000 people have donated more than $12 million to the Boulder County Wildfire Fund to help those affected by the Marshall fire, officials said Tuesday.
Community Foundation Boulder County will begin to distribute up to $5 million in direct financial assistance to those whose homes were destroyed or damaged, Tatiana Hernandez, the foundation’s CEO said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Up to $500,000 will be available to residents who were forced to flee, but did not lose their homes.
The foundation is creating an advisory committee, including representatives from Superior and Louisville, that will make recommendations as to how the funds will be used, Hernandez said. The committee should be finalized by Friday.
“We recognize there are immediate, short- and long-term needs of an event of this magnitude,” Hernandez said.
People can apply for financial aid from the foundation and other sources at the disaster assistance center, at 1755 S. Public Road in Lafayette, between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. At the center, residents can also find help with housing and obtaining vital records, food, COVID-19 tests and transportation.
So far, more than 600 Boulder County residents have signed up to receive FEMA assistance, said Garry Sanfacon, Boulder County’s disaster recovery manager.
Law enforcement authorities said the Marshall fire remains under investigation, and declined to address questions about efforts to determine what sparked the state’s most destructive fire in history.
Investigators determined the fire was sparked near Marshall Road and Colorado 93, but haven’t pinpointed a cause or identified who, if anyone, is to blame. The investigation could take weeks, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.
More than 700 University of Colorado employees and about 600 students live in areas that were evacuated during the Marshall and Middle Fork fires last week, the university said Tuesday. Nearly 1,000 structures were destroyed by the Marshall fire, including the homes of dozens of CU Boulder students, faculty and staff.
In light of the impacts of the fire, in combination with a surge in COVID cases, instruction for the first two weeks of the spring semester, beginning Jan. 10, on the Boulder campus, will be remote.
Utility crews have restored gas to 10,000 customers as of Tuesday, Xcel Energy Colorado president Alice Jackson said. About 3,000 customers still remain without service.
Outside of the burn path, electricity is back online for everyone who lost service, while workers continue to restore electricity to customers inside the burn area, Jackson said.
The city of Louisville hopes to restore water to all residents affected by the fire by Jan. 9, officials said.
Strong winds Tuesday created dangerous conditions for firefighters in the burn area, Pat Seekings, operations sections chief for the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team said during a briefing earlier Tuesday.
Crews were working within the fire perimeter in Superior and Louisville, focusing on areas that could potentially flare up due to the high winds, Seekins said.
Todd Legler, the team’s safety officer, warned that high winds pose a significant threat to firefighters and people returning to their homes.
“We saw a lot of significant damage to buildings because of the fire and these winds could topple over some of these buildings, some of these remaining chimneys that are standing, and we don’t want our firefighters or members of the public to get injured by those,” Legler said, urging people to stay out of the restricted areas.