The toll of the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history continued to come in focus Saturday as firefighters came closer to taming the blaze on the outskirts of Colorado Springs.
Mandatory evacuation orders continued to lift in some areas around the so-called Black Forest fire, which had consumed 15,500 acres. Firefighters were aided by cooler temperatures and higher humidity, and by Saturday afternoon the blaze was 45% contained.
The death toll remained at two, and no more homes burned down overnight, but as officials have gotten more time to tally the losses, they announced that the number of destroyed homes had reached 473.
The state's previously most-destructive fire came last summer with the Waldo Canyon fire, which also ravaged El Paso County. That blaze destroyed 346 homes.
The precise cause of this summer's fire remains unknown, and the identities of the two people killed while apparently trying to escape the conflagration have yet to be publicly released.
The fire started Tuesday and has displaced as many as 38,000 people from 13,000 homes.
"Some areas have been marked as all-clear, so we’re moving some of those people back into their homes," Jennifer Brown, an El Paso County spokeswoman, told the Los Angeles Times.
The wait will be longer for residents in ravaged areas, who still didn't have a clear timeline to return to their properties. Some will have to receive escorts, as officials worry about burned trees suddenly collapsing.
More than 1,000 personnel remained on hand to battle the fire as a passing storm system offered help and the risk of harm.
"Hopefully we’ll get some rain and no lightning," Brown said.
But for the moment, the situation has started to look better for firefighters.
"Obviously, the first couple of days it was crazy," Brown said. "We’ve done well getting people time off to sleep. People are getting refreshed, and they’re looking better."
Officials expected to hold their next news conference noon Sunday.
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