- (Photo: Reuters/Rick Wilking)
The Colorado wildfire, which is being described as the most destructive in the state's history and likely caused by humans, was 30 percent contained late Friday due to rain shower but after it killed two people and burned down at least 419 homes near Colorado Springs.
The Black Forest Fire, which began Tuesday during record-setting heat and dry conditions, is now 30 percent contained, from just five percent on Thursday, The Associated Press quoted Incident Commander Rich Harvey as saying.
Two people died, possibly as they were fleeing their home on fire, and at least 419 homes were burnt, officials said, adding it was possible that a change in the weather could flare it up again.
"It appears as though the individuals were in the garage, the car doors were open as though they were loading or grabbing last minute things, and all indications are from the evidence on scene that they were planning to depart very quickly," El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said, according to NBC News.
"My heart, and I know the hearts of this community, go out to their family," he added.
Late Friday, some residents of the Black Forest area were able to go back to their homes after some mandatory evacuation orders were lifted. Even as about 800 firefighters were battling the fire, mandatory evacuations remained in place from Highway 83 east to Eastonville Road and from the El Paso County line south to Burgess Road and Rex Road.
Chief of Police Peter Carey has said National Guard troops will assist Springs police officers in making sure evacuated areas are safe.
The fire growth has leveled off, with the burn area estimated at between 13,000 and 15,000 acres, according to KDVR.
"We had a real good day without wind in comparison to previous days," Maketa said. "The cloud cover we got to experience and finally the rain made a tremendous impact especially with that duff that lines the ground and we've seen a lot of smoldering over the last several days. So some things finally turned in our favor ... and I think if you look at it as a fight, we got our tails kicked for a couple days."
While the cause of the fire was under investigation, Maketa said he was "pretty confident" it wasn't caused by lightning or other natural phenomena, indicating it was either arson or an accident, according to USA Today.
Maketa added that full containment was expected by June 20.
Meanwhile, southwest of Colorado Springs, the Royal Gorge Fire was 40 percent contained, and authorities were able to open a major highway and lift evacuations, CNN reported. The fire scorched over 3,200 acres, including the historic steel-and-wooden-plank Royal Gorge Bridge – the highest in the United States – and 48 of the park's 52 structures.
This is the second time in a year that the Colorado Springs area has witnessed a massive wildfire. Last year, Waldo Canyon Fire burned 347 homes and killed two people.