Waldo Canyon fire evacuation nightmare continues for thousands

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Ten thousand people in and around this mountain city remained under evacuation orders Saturday, a week after the Waldo Canyon fire erupted to become the most destructive in state history.

The blaze, which has destroyed an estimated 346 homes and killed two people, continued to burn in a 26-square-mile expanse of mountains near Colorado’s second-largest city, but was not growing in size, authorities said at a Saturday morning news conference.

More than 150 National Guard troops will be deployed to patrol neighborhoods and man roadblocks around evacuated areas starting Saturday, freeing up local law enforcement for normal duties, Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey told reporters.

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Containment of the fire has inched upward in recent days and now stands at 30%.

Rising temperatures, drier conditions and windy thunderstorms forecast for Saturday will test the fire lines that residents here have watched with frayed nerves. Firefighters were preparing to conduct controlled burns that could send alarming plumes of smoke above the community but establish a buffer to keep the fire from spreading.

“We’re cautiously optimistic but more worried about areas where we could have mistakes,” Incident Commander Rich Harvey said.

Investigators haven’t been able to access the area where the fire broke out on June 23 to determine the cause.

The wildlife forced some 32,000 people from their homes, but many were allowed to return home in the last two days. Local authorities were scheduling Sunday bus tours for about 4,000 people whose homes were destroyed or damaged, but have not said when the remaining evacuees would be allowed to return home.

Until this week the High Park fire west of Fort Collins ranked as the most destructive in Colorado history, destroying 259 homes. That fire was 97% contained on Saturday.


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