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Historic Colorado wildfires hit home for MTN reporter

Posted at 8:26 AM, Jan 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-02 10:26:59-05

BILLINGS — Historic wildfires fueled by more than 100 mph winds wiped out entire neighborhoods in Boulder County, Colorado on Thursday night.

The flames destroyed at least 500 homes and tens of thousands of residents had only minutes to escape the devastation.

The Marshall Fire has become the most destructive in the state’s history.

Reporter Alina Hauter sat down with a fellow MTN reporter who was just on the scene helping to evacuate his grandmother from her home -- only a quarter of a mile away from the flames.

“I tried to get us out of there as fast as possible,” recalled Edgar Cedillo.

The Marshall Fire forced more than 30,000 people out of their homes after strong winds knocked over powerlines, sparking the flames.

Wind gusts of up to 110 mph didn’t help as the fire continued to spread.

“You could see like the glowing orange, so you could see the smoke, there was a ton of ash still falling,” Edgar said. “Seeing that area get engulfed in flames and seeing how fast that fire moved was pretty intense.”

Elisa Padilla -- grandmother to MTN reporter Edgar Cedillo -- had to evacuate her home in Broomfield, a town about 18 miles north of Denver.

Edgar was on his way to the airport to go back to Montana when he got the call.

Most of Elisa’s neighbors had already left because of evacuation orders as the fire was closing in.

“She packed up a safe, a change of clothes, and I ran in, grabbed everything and kind of bolted out,” Edgar said.

His quick rescue was imperative. The burn scar itself has spanned over 6,000 miles and the fire has destroyed as many as 1,000 homes.

"Just seeing the amount of flashing lights and everything, all the police officers, ambulances, and fire trucks just kind of waiting," Edgar said.

Edgar was able to take his grandmother to his parent’s house in Thornton, about 13 miles southeast of the fire -- all in a span of 40 minutes from the time evacuation orders were put in place.

“Once I had her, I was like, okay now we can kind of breathe a sigh of relief."

Although the fire is heartbreaking, Edgar says he’s in awe of the community support.

“It’s sad to see the devastation but the community support that has come out of it and just seeing people’s livelihoods change in a matter of minutes, the amount of outpouring and support they’ve gotten is just awesome.”

Elisa’s apartment is still standing but many Coloradans are now without homes.

However, like many westerners, Coloradans are resilient in the face of turmoil.

“We’re wild but you know, we know how to take care of one another and it’s one of those things where it’s great to see a community come together,” Edgar noted.