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Emotional Return Home For Waldo Canyon Fire Evacuees

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Rubble is all that remains of this home after the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs. (credit: CBS)

Rubble is all that remains of this home after the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs. (credit: CBS)

GALLERIES: COLORADO'S WORST WILDFIRES

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)- Homeowners returned to their neighborhoods Sunday morning to see the destruction first hand in the wake of the Waldo Canyon Fire.

They were bused to the areas still deemed too dangerous for people. Some were relieved to see their homes still standing, others distraught at the devastation the massive fire caused.

The fire is considered the most destructive in Colorado history with 346 homes lost. Most of those homes were in the Mountain Shadows subdivision.

Sunday evening 3,000 people remained evacuated from the Waldo Canyon Fire burning in Colorado Springs, many of them in the Mountain Shadows subdivision. An additional 7,000 evacuees were allowed to return home at 8 p.m. Sunday.

“Went up today with the citizens that had been impacted directly by the fire and it was emotional. Emotional for those who didn’t lose their homes and emotional for those who did,” said City of Colorado Springs spokesman Steve Cox.

“From our deck we could see flames in two directions. We’re like, ‘It’s gone,'” said Traci McCreary

The Mayor of Colorado Springs Steve Bach recounted a story of a police officer and firefighter who were devastated they couldn’t save more homes.

“She said, ‘Mayor I am so sorry that we’ve lost so many of our homes,’ There was a young firefighter there who also had tears in his eyes. He had been up on that fire line Tuesday night. They had to retreat at one point because it was so horrific up there. He said, ‘Sir, we did the very best we could,'” said Bach.

“You don’t know, are you going to have smoke damage, but those are issues with a home that’s still standing,” said McCreary.

“I’ve never been as proud to live anywhere as here. Fire officials, the police officials, administration, they have just been absolute rock stars, heroes every step of the way. They’ve been proactive, they’ve made tough decisions. Our city should not be here, our city should not be here. We are blessed beyond belief.”

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.

There is still the potential for danger because the fire remains active. When the rest of the Mountain Shadows residents will be allowed to return home is still undetermined.

The fire is burning in dry fuels including brush, hardwood slash, Mountain shrub, oak, grass, Pinon juniper, Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and other pine.

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.

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