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Thousands Remain Evacuated As Major Wildfires Burn

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Crews get briefed before heading out to fight the Waldo Canyon Fire on Monday (credit: Rob McClure)

Crews get briefed before heading out to fight the Waldo Canyon Fire on Monday (credit: Rob McClure)

GALLERIES: COLORADO'S WORST WILDFIRES

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – More than 3,000 personnel were battling at least six wildfires in Colorado on Monday as thousands of people who were evacuated awaited word on when they could return.

The Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs had blackened 5.3 square miles and displaced about 6,000 people, but no homes had been destroyed. Firefighters got a toehold against that blaze Monday, saying 5 percent had been contained by early evening.

About 11,000 people were evacuated over the weekend, but 5,000 of those were allowed to return.

The fire started Saturday; the cause was under investigation.

At least one Air Force C-130 cargo plane joined the battle Monday. The U.S. Forest Service has requested four specially equipped firefighting C-130s, but it wasn’t immediately clear where they would all be dispatched.

The Air Force planes cannot be put into fire service unless all the privately owned large tankers are in use or unavailable.

The High Park fire west of Fort Collins has blackened 130 square miles, killed one person and destroyed at least 248 homes, the worst property loss to fire in state history.

Thousands of residents have been evacuated since that fire started June 9, some more than once as firefighters wage a back-and-forth battle.

“I’m kind of anxious to get home,” said Ernest Martinez, one of the residents forced to flee. “And I feel bad for the rest of the dreamers that lost their homes and have to rebuild again.”

The fire, which was 45 percent contained, was sparked by lightning.

A fire near Rocky Mountain National Park destroyed 22 homes and vacation cabins and two outbuildings in the town of Estes Park. The fire has been contained and evacuated residents were being allowed to return.

The most commonly used entrance to the park was closed because of the fire but has since reopened. The park has banned campfires until further notice.

The 2012 fire season is already the state’s worst in a decade. In late March, the Lower North Fork Fire, 25 miles southwest of Denver, killed three people and damaged or destroyed more than two dozen homes. That fire was the result of a prescribed burn that grew out of control after it was set by the State Forest Service.

The weather offered little hope of short-term relief.

The National Weather Service warned a heat wave was expected to send temperatures soaring to 100 degrees or higher in many places Monday. A red flag warning for high fire danger was in effect across most of the state.

The state has banned open campfires and private fireworks. The federal Bureau of Land Management banned campfires and outdoor smoking and imposed other fire restrictions on its land in 21 counties covering most of eastern Colorado.

On Sunday a brushfire that began near Elbert, about 50 miles southwest of Denver, quickly spread to about 600 acres, forcing the evacuation of about 100 residents. On Monday the fire was 90 percent contained.

all wildfires map Thousands Remain Evacuated As Major Wildfires Burn

(credit: CBS)

A look at some of the major wildfires burning in Colorado:

HIGH PARK
Location: 15 miles west of Fort Collins.
Size: 130 square miles or 83,205 acres.
Containment: 45 percent.
Deaths: 1.
Homes destroyed: 248.
Start date: June 9.
Cause: Lightning.
Firefighting costs: $29.6 million.
Firefighting resources: 19 helicopters, five air tankers, 170 engines, 2,037 personnel.

WALDO CANYON
Location: Pike National Forest west of Colorado Springs.
Size: 5.3 square miles or 3,400 acres.
Containment: 0 percent.
Deaths: None reported.
Homes destroyed: None reported.
Start date: June 23.
Cause: Under investigation.
Firefighting costs: None reported.
Firefighting resources: 450 personnel.

WOODLAND HEIGHTS
Location: Estes Park.
Size: 0.04 square mile or 27 acres.
Containment: 100 percent.
Deaths: None reported.
Homes destroyed: 22.
Start date: June 24.
Cause: Not reported.
Firefighting costs: None reported.
Firefighting resources: None reported.

LITTLE SAND
Location: 13 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs.
Size: 34 square miles or 21,616 acres.
Containment: 31 percent.
Deaths: None reported.
Homes destroyed: None reported.
Start date: May 13.
Cause: Lightning.
Firefighting costs: $5.2 million.
Firefighting resources: 196 personnel.

WEBER
Location: 6 miles south of Mancos.
Size: 13 square miles or 8,300 acres.
Containment: 0 percent.
Deaths: None reported.
Homes destroyed: None reported.
Start date: June 22.
Cause: Human, under investigation.
Firefighting costs: $245,000.
Firefighting resources: 164 personnel.

TREASURE
Location: 5 miles northeast of Leadville
Size: 0.5 square mile or 320 acres.
Containment: 10 percent.
Deaths: None reported.
Homes destroyed: None reported.
Start date: None reported.
Cause: Human.
Firefighting costs: None reported.
Firefighting resources: 73 personnel.

Sources: National Interagency Fire Center, U.S. Forest Service, Larimer County Sheriff’s Department.

- By THOMAS PEIPERT, Associated Press (CBS4 staff contributed to this report)

Wildfire Resources

- Visit CBSDenver.com’s Wildfire Resources section.

- Read recent Wildfire stories.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

- See images from the most destructive wildfires (High Park Fire and Fourmile Fire) and largest wildfire (Hayman Fire) in Colorado history.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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