Wildfires fanned by powerful winds forced the evacuation on Thursday of more than 30,000 residents of two municipalities in Boulder County, Colorado.

Iran Press/America: The Boulder County Office of Emergency Management announced evacuation orders for Superior and Louisville, urging residents to act quickly to escape danger, as the sky turned orange, ash swirled in the wind, and buildings were engulfed in flames.

Plumes of smoke were visible from miles away in the city of Boulder, as wind gusts in the area reached up to 80 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency in response to the grass fires, allowing the state to tap emergency funds and to deploy state resources, including the Colorado National Guard.

ICU units evacuated

Avista Adventist Hospital, a 114-bed hospital in the City of Louisville, said it had evacuated its neonatal intensive care and intensive care units as well as its emergency department, moving patients to two other hospitals. The hospital’s staff members were sheltering in place and nearby roads were closed, the hospital said.

The Louisville Police Department told residents to evacuate east or north. The evacuations came as wildfires in the American West have been worsening — growing larger, spreading faster, and reaching into mountain elevations that were previously too wet and cool to have supported fierce fires. What was once a seasonal phenomenon has become a year-round menace, with fires burning later into the fall and into the winter.

Global warming, main reason for wildfires

Recent research has suggested that heat and dryness associated with global warming are major reasons for the increase in bigger and stronger fires, as rainfall patterns have been disrupted, snow melts earlier and meadows and forests are scorched into kindling. Blasting wind gusts and numerous road closures complicated evacuation efforts.

A video that circulated on social media showed cars moving in thick gray and orange plumes of smoke, and confused grocery shoppers being evacuated into the smoky haze.

Boulder County emergency management officials said they were getting reports of people in Louisville who could not evacuate because they had lost power and their automatic garage doors would not open. The officials advised residents that garages have a red handle inside that allows the door to be opened manually.