EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

June 16, 2013

Colo. firefighters advance containment on Colo. wildfire

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado sheriff said firefighters “are getting the upper hand” on the most destructive wildfire in state history Saturday, an announcement that came as authorities gained a clearer picture of the grim landscape the blaze has left behind.

No additional homes were destroyed as fire crews expanded containment lines, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said. Also, there were no new reports of injury or death, he said.

The fire that exploded Tuesday outside of Colorado Springs, amid record-setting heat and tinder-dry conditions, has destroyed nearly 500 homes and killed two people, whose bodies were found inside their garage Thursday, their car doors open as though they had been about to flee.

On Saturday, worried residents waited for permission to return to their neighborhoods to see whether their homes were still standing.

Maketa said the fire’s destruction has made it difficult for his deputies to assess damage.

Deputies have said “it looks like a nuclear bomb went off in some of those areas, and you can’t even recognize whether it was a house or some other kind of structure,” Maketa said. “That is the level of incineration and destruction that took place in some areas.”

Containment is at 45 percent, an increase from 30 percent on Friday. It’s unknown what sparked the blaze, but investigators believe it was human-caused. So far, it’s cost more than $3.5 million to fight.

Most mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted, as the fire zone remained at 25 square miles.

Some residents have already gotten to see the damage for themselves.

Jack and Judy Roe were able to tour their neighborhood Friday, and saw to their relief that their house had been spared. Several other homes on their block, however, where destroyed.

“Our hearts were breaking for our neighbors,” Judy Roe said.

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