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El Paso County sheriff Terry Maketa said Monday that local, state and federal investigators are ``zeroing in on the point of origin'' of the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs. It's 75 percent contained.
Nearly 500 homes have been lost in the fire and two people who were trying to flee were found dead in the rubble.
The investigation is one reason authorities have been hesitant to let people back to the area hit hardest by the fire. Firefighters are also working to put out hot spots. Maketa said residents could be temporarily allowed back as early as Tuesday.
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Teams got help Sunday from the weather as steady rain moved through the densely wooded
"Every bit of rain helps the crews mop up. It's just adding another nail in the coffin," fire spokesman Brandon Hampton said.
Nearly 500 homes have been burned by the 22-square-mile fire, which is 65 percent contained. Crews hope to have it fully under control by Thursday.
With evacuees anxious to return, crews are digging up and extinguishing hot spots, labor-intensive work that's needed because extremely dry grass and trees could quickly ignite.
Even though the fire was no longer active enough on Sunday to produce a large smoke plume,
Additionally, the death of two unidentified people trying to flee the fire was still being investigated. Maketa said he was in no rush to have people return to an area that, at least for now, was still being considered a crime scene.
"I'm not going to compromise the evidence by allowing people in too soon," he said.
Some evacuees outside the burn area have been allowed back home. Those with property in the burn area have returned with escorts to check on their property or to pick up items, but Maketa said some were then refusing to leave once they were done. He urged fire victims to cooperate or risk being arrested.
Trudy Dawson, 59, was at work when the fire broke out Tuesday and quickly spread in record-breaking heat and strong winds. Her 25-year-old daughter, Jordan, who was on her way from
With only 30 minutes to evacuate, she only had time to find a family cat and to open a corral gate so the horses could flee.
Jordan and two adult siblings went to the property the next day with a sheriff's escort and found the horses, unhurt, standing in their corral.
"It was just skeletons of vehicles and ash everywhere. It's haunting. It looks like it's right out of a horror movie," Jordan Dawson said.
It's unknown what sparked the blaze, but investigators believe it was human-caused and have asked for help from the state and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as they sift through the ash.
It's only a few miles away from the state's second most destructive wildfire, the Waldo Canyon Fire, which burned last summer.
The memory of that fire may have made residents especially appreciative of firefighters. About 1,000 people turned out to line the road and cheer firefighters as they returned from lines Saturday night, fire spokesman Brandon Hampton said.
Some of the aircraft used to fight the Black Forest Fire and other
Crews were closer to containing other wildfires that broke out around the same time as