Colorado wildfire: Three people reported missing and presumed dead

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Three people are missing and presumed dead, after a devastating wildfire in the central US state of Colorado.

The blaze swept through several towns, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee.

The local sheriff had initially said there were no fatalities, calling it a “miracle”.

But a spokeswoman for Boulder County admitted a mistake had been made.

“I think the sheriff probably wasn’t adequately briefed by us,” Jennifer Churchill said, in comments carried by the Colorado Sun. “That was an unfortunate error. We feel terrible.”

No details have been released about those missing, but local media reported that one of them was a 91-year-old woman whose family said got trapped by the incoming flames.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said it was unlikely any of the three will be found alive. He added that the county is set to bring in human-remains detection dogs to help search for victims.

The wildfire burned 6,000 acres across Boulder County, destroying at least 1,000 homes and businesses. It started under unusually dry conditions and came under control in part because of snowfall.

More than 10 inches (25cm) of snow has fallen on the Boulder area and is now hampering efforts to find those missing.

Images showed eerie scenes, with charred buildings buried under thick snow.

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Residents hit by the wildfire are coming to terms with what happened, in some cases returning home to find complete destruction.

“I feel like I made it out with my life and that’s I think the most important thing,” Jessi Delaplain, who lost her home to the fire, told CBS.

“I gathered myself and I gathered my cats which was no easy feat to stuff them into the car. And I pulled out of the driveway and there were flames surrounding us.”

The cause of the wildfire is being investigated.

Climate change increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that is likely to fuel wildfires, and experts say that fires in western North America have grown more intense in recent years.

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