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Firefighters Make Progress On Waldo Canyon Fire: 45 Percent Contained

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Copter4 flew over the Waldo Canyon Fire on Friday, June 29. (credit: CBS)

Copter4 flew over the Waldo Canyon Fire on Friday, June 29. (credit: CBS)

GALLERIES: COLORADO'S WORST WILDFIRES

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)- Fire crews continue to gain ground on the Waldo Canyon Fire burning in Colorado Springs. The fire was 45 percent contained at 4 p.m. Saturday.

There has been no significant growth on the fire since Thursday. The fire has burned 17,073 acres. There are 1,287 fire personnel fighting the fire.

Fire officials hope to lift more evacuations on Sunday for neighborhoods including Green Mountain Falls, Crystola and Cascade. Several hundred people were allowed to return home when evacuations were lifted Friday at 8 p.m.

The City of Colorado Springs has released a damage assessment map that shows how each home was affected in the evacuated neighborhoods. Those homes indicated by a green dot were untouched by the fire, those in yellow suffered some damage and the blue dots indicated the fire destroyed the home. Damage Assessment Map

The City of Woodland Park mandatory evacuation order was lifted at 5 p.m. Saturday. Highway 24 remains closed in Crystola east bound and the Cave of the Winds west bound. Citizens returning to their homes will remain on pre-evacuation status.

“The fact of the matter is, it is still a danger out there in terms of fire, whether this fire, the ones in Boulder or wherever, fire potential in this city and state has the potential to become extreme,” said Incident Commander Rich Harvey.

Garden of the Gods Park remains closed. There is no estimate on when it will reopen.

The City of Colorado Springs issued a map that shows the areas where the mandatory evacuation order remains in effect. The areas highlighted in orange remain under evacuation. Colorado Springs Map

There is no estimate on when those evacuated homeowners will be allowed to return home although firefighters are working on getting the fire under control so everyone can return home. Firefighters saved 81 percent of the homes that were in the path of the fire that started last Saturday.

Those who are still out of their neighborhoods will be allowed to view the area by a bus tour starting on Sunday. About 4,000 people impacted by the Waldo Canyon Fire will be allowed to tour their neighborhood but it’s still too dangerous to allow them back on their own. The bus tours will be divided up into streets and they can take about 30 people per bus.

A Wildfire Smoke Health Advisory continues in effect for portions of El Paso County due to the Waldo Canyon Fire. Fine Particulate concentrations are expected to be variable from Good to Unhealthy-for-Sensitive-Groups downwind of the Waldo Canyon Fire. Smoke will move downslope/downvalley at night and during the morning and could pool in low areas and along Fountain Creek as far south as Fountain. Fine Particulate concentrations could reach the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range in areas where the smoke pools.

Some residents at the Air Force Academy were allowed to return home at 5 a.m. Friday.

Two people were found dead inside a burned home. The remains of the second victim was found Friday afternoon in the same home where the first set of remains was found Thursday. Authorities are investigating the cause of death and have not released identities. They believe the deceased are spouses.

Everyone who was previously unaccounted for in the Waldo Canyon Fire has been located. There are no missing residents.

El Paso County Sheriff Jeff Kramer said the fire is human caused. The FBI and ATF are assisting with local authorities on the investigation.

RELATED STORY: Pres. Obama Tours Destruction Of Waldo Canyon Fire

President Obama declared a major disaster for Colorado Friday morning because of the wildfires burning in the state. The declaration will make federal assistance available for recovery efforts in Colorado Springs and across the state.

Obama met with several of the evacuees and fire crews during his visit to the Waldo Canyon Fire Friday afternoon.

The Forest Service mobilized the remaining four Department of Defense C-130s equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems on Friday. The airtankers will be available on Saturday to assist with wildfire suppression efforts in Colorado and elsewhere. They will be based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., along with the four MAFFS that have already been mobilized. To date, the MAFFS aircraft have conducted 62 sorties, 53 air drops and dropped 138,400 gallons of retardant in the Rocky Mountain Region with a primary focus on the Waldo Canyon fire.

Those four C-130’s are in addition to the nineteen airtankers currently available nationally to combat fires. More than 10,400 personnel, more than 700 fire engines and more than 100 helicopters are also fighting wildfires around the U.S., supporting state and local efforts.

As part of heightened efforts, the Forest Service is today training an Army battalion at Fort Carson, located near Colorado Springs, Colo., to potentially serve as ground firefighters to boost the number of firefighters available for wildfire suppression throughout the nation. The training will involve one day of classroom training and one to two days of field training.

During the classroom training, soldiers will learn about wildfire suppression including fire behavior and fireline safety. During field training, soldiers will receive instruction in fire suppression methods and procedures. This effort will ensure there are additional resources available should the U.S. Forest Service require them.

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