COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – Fire officials leading the battle against the Black Forest Fire say they are beginning to see some hopeful signs as they work to contain the blaze. Some mandatory evacuations were lifted Friday afternoon.
A total of 473 homes were destroyed and 15 were a partial loss. The fire was 30 percent contained Friday afternoon.
“We’ve had no significant movement,” U.S. Fire Incident Commander Rich Harvey said in a news conference Friday afternoon as he summed up the work done throughout the day. “No significant progress by the fire in any direction.”
More than 2,645 homes were not affected by the fire. Fire crews still need to assess up to 3,000 additional homes in the area.
“Some things finally turned in our favor and I think if you look at is as a fight we got our tails kicked for a couple of days. I think today we delivered some blows,” said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.
There was also a rain storm which not only helped firefighters but helped raise spirits among crews who had been battling the massive fire for days.
“All of a sudden we saw the clouds come, all of a sudden it started raining and I stood there. This is the happiest I’ve been in a while,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“What we need is more of this! It’s not that complicated, this is what we need,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat representing Colorado.
As of Friday morning there were 38,000 people impacted by they fire and 93,000 acres evacuated. Within the approximate 15,000 acre burn area 1,300 to 1,500 acres have actually burned.
The Black Forest Fire is the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history, with a total of 419 homes destroyed. Firefighters and emergency officials in the burn area are working together to try to keep the fire away from any more homes as well as doing security patrols.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done out there with the fire. The firefighters are still out there,” said Harvey.
The Colorado Springs lifted mandatory evacuations but voluntary evacuations remain in effect from North Gate & Old North Gate to Interquest Parkway, Hwy 83 to Voyager Parkway.
Just one day after they cleared out the Flying Horse neighborhood in northern Colorado Springs, officials let people back into their houses. They also re-opened an eastern swath of the Black Forest, east of Meridian Road.
“We’re doing a pretty good job, we think, of identifying the hotspots that are still interior and threatening those structures,” Harvey said.
Officials are hopeful the blaze won’t grow beyond its southern, western and eastern borders at this point. There are two areas on the northern borders of the fire where there are still big concerns about growth.
“We did not lose large chunks of land last night,” Maketa said during Friday morning’s news conference.
The remains of two people were found in a burned home, officials announced Thursday. That has elevated the investigation that was already underway into the cause of the fire to a criminal investigation. Authorities are now looking for tips in that investigation. (Full Story)
More than 40 calls from police officers doing patrols came in overnight asking firefighters to check hotspots near homes.
“About 25 percent of those calls resulted in the firefighters being able to take direct intervention action that directly resulted in saving a structure,” Harvey said.
Some good news also in came Friday for some Elbert County residents who were under mandatory evacuation orders. People who live north of County Line 86 to County Road 98 and west of North Elbert can now go home.
Officials are holding a public meeting for residents about the fire on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Palmer Ridge High School. City and county leaders said they are hoping to share information for people under evacuation and pre-evacuation notices. They also invite anyone else who wishes to come to the meeting to come and discus how the fire has affected them.
Blockades are in place outside neighborhoods where evacuation orders are in place and there is a heavy police presence at every entry and exit point. The aim is to avoid the kind of looting that some evacuated areas during the Waldo Canyon Fire saw last year. Maketa said there have been no reports of any looting during this year’s firefight.
The American Red Cross said 234 evacuees slept in the shelters they have set up near the fire on Thursday night. The shelters that are set up are:
– Monument: Palmer Ridge High School, 19255 Monument Hill Rd.
– Kiowa: Elbert County Fairgrounds, 95 Ute Ave.
– Colorado Springs: University of Colorado Colorado Springs Rec. Center, 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway.
El Paso County has opened a disaster assistance center in Colorado Springs for people who are affected by the fire. (Full Story)
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