COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– At least 10,000 people remain evacuated from the Waldo Canyon Fire burning in Colorado Springs. But not for long. An additional 7,000 will be allowed to return home at 8 p.m. Sunday. That leaves 3,000 people evacuated, mostly from the Mountain Shadows subdivision.
The fire is considered the most destructive in Colorado history with 346 homes lost. Most of those homes were in the Mountain Shadows subdivision.
“It’s just really devastating to see it right now and it’s a lot worse than I expected,” said one homeowner.
“I see a lot of crazy black places where people had houses and driveways where there is nothing at the end of the driveways,” said evacuee Cathy Maurer.
The fire missed her condo but destroyed nearly everything else surrounding her home.
“To know that it was that close, a little scary,” said Mauer.
The Waldo Canyon Fire has burned 17,659 acres and was 45 percent contained Sunday morning.
There are 1,534 fire personnel fighting the fire. They expect to have complete containment by July 16. Fire crews are concerned that some hot spots could flare up again.
“The fire potential is still very, very high. It’s extremely explosive and we’re going to prepare to deal with that every day for the rest of the summer,” said Incident Commander Rich Harvey.
The fire is burning in dry fuels including brush, hardwood slash, Mountain shrub, oak, grass, Pinon juniper, Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and other pine.
“The thing that I will miss the most is just thinking about our neighbors and how much, how much I’m going to miss them because we had just tremendous neighbors and I’m really hoping that they rebuild,” said Marty Novak-Haynes who lost her home in the fire.
Sunday morning, buses started taking some evacuees to their neighborhood for the first time in nearly a week. That is when homeowners will be allowed to view the destruction up close.
There is a lot of smoke coming from two large interior islands burning west of the Air Force Academy. Fire crews are making progress along the western flank.
Aircraft are being used to attack the fire from the air on the north flank of the fire south of Monument Canyon.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. The FBI and ATF are assisting local authorities in determining the origin of the fire that began June 23.
Evacuations were lifted for Woodland Park on Saturday at 4 p.m.
U.S. Highway 24 between Manitou Springs and Woodland Park was opened at about 1 p.m. Sunday.
Two people were found dead inside a home that had burned. Police said everyone else previously missing has been accounted for.
The Red Cross shelters located at Summit Elementary School, Lewis Palmer High School, and Cripple Creek High School will close at noon on Monday. Shelters are closing due to the diminished need with evacuation notices lifted this morning. Evacuees can still find shelter at Cheyenne Mountain High School and YMCA Southeast Family Center if needed.