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Colorado fire

Colorado’s largest fire destroyed more than 350 homes and spread across 15,000 acres.

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (CNN) – As hundreds of firefighters began to get the upper hand on a huge blaze near Colorado Springs, investigators stepped up their probe into the cause of the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.

Investigators are treating the 16,000-acre Black Forest Fire, which was 75% contained Monday, as a crime scene, though they don’t yet know whether a crime was committed, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said.

Authorities are allowing more people to visit their homes by the day — the mandatory evacuation area covered the homes of 4,100 people Monday, down from tens of thousands last week. But Maketa asked for patience from those still being kept out, citing not only the remaining hot spots, but also the need to preserve evidence.

“When you’re talking about a potential for prosecution — we don’t know yet whether it’s a crime or not — we’re going to treat it as (if) it is, and preserve every element of that scene as we can,” Maketa told reporters Monday. “To allow people go in and trample through … compromises our scene.”

Fire

Courtesy CNN

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been called in, along with state authorities.

“We are zeroing in on the point of origin, and it’s a very slow, methodical process,” Maketa said. “We brought in additional experts to make sure we’re not missing anything … but I’m pleased with the process they are making.”

Maketa’s comments came after fire teams made significant progress against the flames northeast of Colorado Springs over the weekend, with containment growing from 5% to 75% in just a few days’ time.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — As hundreds of firefighters began to get the upper hand on a huge blaze near Colorado Springs, Colorado, investigators stepped up their probe into the cause of the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.

The 16,000-acre Black Forest Fire, which was 65% contained Sunday, is now considered a crime scene, according to El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, who said it will be some time before residents will be allowed to go home permanently.

“We have a crime scene in there. We have fire in there. We have downed power lines in there. We have trees falling each time there is a gust of wind,” he said, adding he was calling it a crime scene until proven otherwise.

The sheriff said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been called in, along with state authorities.

colorado wildfire“It has far expanded beyond just my arson investigator,” he said Sunday. “We have brought experts in to give us the greatest possible chance to not only determine the cause, but whether there was criminal intent or not.”

No explanation was given for the crime scene designation.

The revelation comes as fire teams made significant progress against the flames northeast of Colorado Springs over the weekend, with containment growing from 5% to 65% in just a few days time.

And the forecast continues to look promising.

The National Weather Service says highs will be in the upper 70s through Tuesday, with up to a 40% change of rain each day and light winds.

Temperatures in the 90s, little rain and blustery winds fueled the Black Forest Fire in its early days.

Colorado Springs, Colorado (CNN) – More than 375 homes have been destroyed in what authorities believe is the worst wildfire in Colorado history. Every single one of them has a story, and there are sure to be plenty more as Friday’s forecast predicts more scorching heat and strong winds.

Bill and Karen Moreau are sitting in a hotel room 15 miles away from the home they planned to spend the rest of their lives in. For the past three nights, they’ve struggled to sleep, dreaming fitfully that they are again walking its 7,000 square feet of hardwood floors. They open their huge front doors, and are immediately soothed by the view from large windows, an expanse of lush timber.

“We had the most beautiful home,” Karen Moreau said. “It’s just so sad that it’s gone.”

colorado house on fire

Photo courtesy KDVR

As firefighters and a cavalcade of responders battle the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs, families like the Moreaus are torn between absolute gratitude that they are safe, and sorrow that they’ve nothing left of their homes besides memories.

Around 3 p.m. Tuesday, Bill Moreau got a call at work from a friend warning him that he’d better get home. The Black Forest Fire was headed toward his neighborhood.

That day, there was little indication that the fire would pick up as it has, moving with a ferocity that has shocked seasoned emergency professionals.

Moreau met his wife, Karen, and their 30-year-old son, Craig, at home and saw smoke billowing two to three miles away.

Just as Californians prepare themselves for an earthquake and Floridians for a hurricane, Colorado residents know what they need to grab from home in case of a wildfire.

Because the smoke seemed relatively far away, they thought they had time.

“I said, ‘Well, let’s get some stuff ready,’ ” Bill Moreau said.

They grabbed their passports, birth certificates and some clothes. Bill got his computer.

“After a while, it was just random,” Karen said. “You start to think, ‘Well, what else do I take?’ “

Every year of their 34-year marriage, Bill has given her a Santa for Christmas.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

By Jenny Deam

Los Angeles Times

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Black Forest fire, the most destructive in Colorado history, has now turned deadly, with authorities announcing Thursday evening that two people were killed, apparently while trying to flee the flames.

colorado house on fire

Photo courtesy KDVR

Two bodies were discovered about 2 p.m. Thursday in a garage with the car doors open, El Paso County Sheriff Perry Maketa said at a news conference. The gender of the victims was not disclosed.

Maketa said the pair apparently died Tuesday, the day the fire broke out.

The pair received a phone call about 4:20 p.m. that day and reported that they could see an orange glow to the west. They said they were preparing to evacuate a house in a heavily wooded area.

The pair received another call at 5 p.m., and the callers later told authorities that popping and crackling could be heard in the background.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Authorities have not said whether the fire might have been intentionally set, but Maketa described the inquiry into the deaths as a criminal investigation. He did not elaborate.

Earlier Thursday, authorities announced that the Black Forest fire had burned at least 360 homes. “I’m very hopeful we didn’t lose any homes today,” Maketa said.

The fire was just 5% contained and has prompted the evacuation of about 39,000 people.

The fire is about 10 miles east of last year’s Waldo Canyon fire, which until now had been considered the most destructive in Colorado history after killing two people and destroying 346 homes.

Colorado Springs, Colo. (CNN) — Firefighters made little headway Thursday against a wildfire near Colorado Springs, which has claimed the lives of at least two people.

“We recently, in the last few hours, did recover the remains of two individuals,” El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa told reporters.

It was not immediately clear how they died.

The Black Forest Fire, burning northeast of the city, now appears to be the most destructive in terms of property lost in Colorado state history, El Paso County spokesman Dave Rose told CNN.

As of Thursday, firefighters had set up a loose perimeter around the blaze, which was 5% contained, up from 0% earlier.

“The fire is very, very active within the containment area, and we don’t have a high level of confidence at all that we’ll be able to hold all of these lines around this fire,” Rose said.

colorado wildfire

The fire’s evacuation area is 93,000 acres, affecting approximately 38,000 people and 13,000 homes, and the flames are estimated to have burned through 15,700 acres, Maketa said.

That marked a dramatic increase from the 8,500 acres officials said had been burned by Wednesday night, he noted.

“Wind is probably our No. 1 threat,” Maketa said. Combined with dry brush and high temperatures, the winds have fanned devastating flames.

Maketa said he struggled to find a phrase to describe how ferocious the fire is, settling on “very dynamic.”

After he spoke, residents of about 1,000 homes in Colorado Springs were told to evacuate: “Please leave the area as soon as possible,” Police Chief Pete Carey told reporters.

In northeast Colorado Springs, CNN iReporter Heather Croze took photos outside her home, capturing a billowing plume of smoke. One shot shows just how wide the smoke was on the horizon.

A county fairground northeast of the Black Forest Fire looked like a Noah’s Ark Thursday with families who fled with their animals to escape the looming inferno.

There were nearly 30 chickens, several hundred horses, a handful of cows and a couple calves, and many alpacas and miniature horses, according to the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office. Assorted dogs, cats, goats and donkeys mingled with mules and llamas. Three stallions were there. And for good measure, one yak.

At least eight families also have taken refuge at the Elbert County Fairgrounds in Kiowa, the Denver Post reported, which is about 35 miles southeast of Denver.

Joanne Gaishin slept outside in her car after fleeing her home with 18 chickens and three turkeys. “I stayed in the front seat of my car with all of my fowl in there, with the roosters crowing in the morning,” she told the paper.

For the complete CNN story, go here.

BLACK FOREST, Colo. (KDVR) –  The Black Forest Fire has destroyed 360 homes making it the most destructive fire in Colorado history, officials said Thursday.

colorado house on fire

Photo courtesy KDVR

Another 14 homes have been damaged, said El Paso County Sheriff Sheriff Terry Maketa during a Thursday morning briefing.

He said 1,205 homes inside the fire area appeared to be unaffected.

LINK: Black Forest Fire – Residences June 13, 9 a.m.

The fire almost doubled in size Wednesday and had burned 15,000 acres with 0 percent containment, Maketa said.

About 38,000 people in 13,000 homes have been affected by the fire.

“Those numbers are pretty devastating,” Maketa said.

The inferno is likely to continue for a couple more days as temperatures are forecast to stay in the 90s through Friday, with winds gusting up to 30 mph.

“We are watching the weather conditions very closely,” Maketa said adding that “wind is probably our No. 1 threat. It is what has been the game changer.”

A Type I incident command team has arrived and taken command of the fire. The team is considered the most experienced in fighting large fires and is led by Cmdr. Rich Harvey, who led the battle against the Waldo Canyon Fire last year.

Maketa said firefighters have a plan of attack for Thursday and will be using a combination of air and ground resources on the fire.

Fort Carson had 130 National Guard troops standing by to assist including patrolling evacuated areas, setting up road blocks and supporting firefighters, said Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback.

Fort Carson also sent five helicopters to make water drops.

There were no reports of casualties, but one person might be missing, Maketa said.  This area where the missing person is said to be at is too hot for firefighters to move into.

Q13 FOX News

DENVER, Colo — Fires in Colorado have forced a prison to evacuate 905 inmates, a state corrections department spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The majority of the inmates are “special needs,” Alison Morgan told CNN, meaning they receive medical treatment.

Because it’s usually a time-consuming process to move inmates, officials began moving those at the Colorado Territorial Correctionalfacility to Centennial Correctional facility around midnight Tuesday, Morgan said. The transfer was finished at 9 a.m., she said.

She stressed the inmates were moved only as a precaution; the Royal Gorge Fire has not reached Colorado Territorial Correctional facility, which is located on Highway 50 in Canon City, southwest of Colorado Springs.

DenverfireBut that and other fires are moving fast and winds are expected to pick up throughout the day, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said at news conference Wednesday morning. The Black Forest Fire is burning in that county.

“We have some very unpredictable conditions,” he said. Authorities’ “priorities are saving lives — protecting the first responders and firefighters.”

There have been no injuries among responders so far, he said.

Meanwhile, backup is coming in. Rescue workers are getting more helicopters and National Guard troops are relieving law enforcement workers who have been working nonstop, Maketa said.

By late Tuesday, more than 3,600 residents were evacuated as the Black Forest Fire burned quickly through dry timber. As many as 80 homes could be damaged or destroyed, Maketa said Wednesday, but he said an exact estimate was difficult.

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