Steady rain falls as crews work against Colo. fire
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - With evacuees anxious to return,
firefighters worked Sunday to dig up and extinguish hot spots to protect
homes spared by the most destructive wildfire in Colorado's history.
The labor-intensive work is necessary because
extremely dry grass and trees could quickly ignite if wind stirs up hot
spots in the densely wooded Black Forest near Colorado Springs.
Firefighters did get some help from the weather as
steady rain moved through the area Sunday afternoon. But that weather
came with some lightning, which sparked a small grass fire near one
"Every bit of rain helps the crews mop up. It's just adding another nail in the coffin," fire spokesman Brandon Hampton said.
Nearly 500 homes have been burned by the
22-square-mile fire, which is 65 percent contained. Crews hope to have
it fully under control by Thursday.
Even though the fire was no longer active enough on
Sunday to produce a large smoke plume, El Paso County Sheriff Terry
Maketa said it wasn't safe for people to return home until roads and
downed power lines were repaired.
Additionally, the death of two unidentified people
trying to flee the fire was still being investigated. Maketa said he was
in no rush to have people return to an area that, at least for now, was
still being considered a crime scene.
"I'm not going to compromise the evidence by allowing people in too soon," he said.
Some evacuees outside the burn area have been
allowed back home. Those with property in the burn area have returned
with escorts to check on their property or to pick up items, but Maketa
said some were then refusing to leave once they were done. He urged fire
victims to cooperate or risk being arrested.
Trudy Dawson, 59, was at work when the fire broke
out Tuesday and quickly spread in record-breaking heat and strong winds.
Her 25-year-old daughter, Jordan, who was on her way from Denver to
visit, spotted the smoke, called her mother and went to the house.
With only 30 minutes to evacuate, she only had time to find a family cat and to open a corral gate so the horses could flee.
Jordan and two adult siblings went to the property
the next day with a sheriff's escort and found the horses, unhurt,
standing in their corral.
"It was just skeletons of vehicles and ash
everywhere. It's haunting. It looks like it's right out of a horror
movie," Jordan Dawson said.
It's unknown what sparked the blaze, but
investigators believe it was human-caused and have asked for help from
the state and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives as they sift through the ash.
It's only a few miles away from the state's second most destructive wildfire, the Waldo Canyon Fire, which burned last summer.
The memory of that fire may have made residents
especially appreciative of firefighters. About 1,000 people turned out
to line the road and cheer firefighters as they returned from lines
Saturday night, fire spokesman Brandon Hampton said.
Some of the aircraft used to fight the Black Forest
Fire and other Front Range fires have been moved to fight a nearly
500-acre wildfire near Rifle Falls State Park in western Colorado. That
fire erupted Friday from a smoldering lightning strike the day before,
spokesman Pat Thrasher said. The residents of 12 homes were ordered to
leave along with campers in the park as well as Rifle Mountain Park and
the nearby White River National Forest.
Crews were closer to containing other wildfires
that broke out around the same time as Black Forest. In Canon City, 50
miles to the southwest, a fire that destroyed 48 buildings at Royal
Gorge Bridge & Park was 85 percent contained and the park's scenic
railroad was running again. A lightning-sparked fire in Rocky Mountain
National Park had burned nearly 500 acres and was 60 percent contained.
In New Mexico, crews were trying to protect homes
in a historic mining town from a 35-square mile wildfire that had
prompted 26 people to leave their homes.
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