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The fire broke out and burned through an entire subdivision.

Three people are missing after a wildfire tore through several Colorado towns, quickly destroying nearly 1,000 homes as part of the latest in a string of US natural disasters.

Family members identified one of the missing people as Nadine Turnbull, 91, telling 9News that a relative had tried to rescue her from her home in Superior only to be turned back by flames engulfing the front and back doors.

“We’re very fortunate that we don’t have a list of 100 missing. But unfortunately we do have three confirmed missing people,” Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle told a press conference.

At least 991 homes are thought to have been destroyed as the blaze raced through the towns of Superior and Louisville on Thursday, just outside the state’s biggest city Denver, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee with little notice.

Shocking aerial footage showed whole streets as little more than piles of smoking ash, destruction that appeared almost total but somehow left a few homes oddly untouched.

Pelle said the search for the missing had been hampered by the destruction and snow.

“The structures where these folks would be are completely destroyed and covered with about eight inches (20 centimeters) of snow right now.”

Investigators found no credible evidence to back earlier reports that downed power lines may have caused the fire, with Pelle stating that some residents may have been confused by downed telecom lines.

“If it turns out to be arson or reckless behavior, we’ll take appropriate actions,” the sheriff said.

However, investigators have “executed a search warrant in one particular location” as part of an ongoing investigation that Pelle described as “very active” and comprising federal and state partners.

The fire, which was sparked in a tinder-dry landscape, was then fanned by winds gusting at more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) an hour on Thursday.

“This was a disaster in fast motion… over the course of half a day. Many families having minutes to get whatever they could — their pets, their kids — into the car and leave,” Governor Jared Polis said, “just as in the blink of an eye.”

At least 33,000 people in Superior and Louisville were told to flee, many doing so with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Pelle said he spoke to the granddaughter of one of the missing on Saturday morning.

A sheriff’s official who declined to provide his name confirmed that one property was under investigation in Boulder County’s Marshall Mesa area, a region of open grassland about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) west of the hard-hit town of Superior, according to AP.

At least 991 homes were destroyed, Pelle said: 553 in Louisville, 332 in Superior and 106 in unincorporated parts of the county. Pelle cautioned that the tally was not final.

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