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Waldo Canyon Fire Claims First Victim

A fire blazing in and around Colorado Springs has forced tens of thousands to flee, burned some 346 homes, and has now taken its first life
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 6/29/2012, 2:04 PM

Waldo Canyon Fire Devastation
Waldo Canyon Fire Devastation
Reuters

A massive wildfire blazing in and around Colorado Springs this week has forced tens of thousands to flee, incinerated some 346 homes, and left one vicitim dead.

Police Chief Pete Carey on Thursday said the remains of one person were found in a home where two people had been reported missing. He refused to take questions after making the announcement.

Amid the devastation in the foothills of Colorado Springs, there were hopeful signs that firefighters were making progress.

Flames advancing on the US Air Force Academy were stopped and cooler conditions could help slow the fire.

The fire was 15 percent contained Thursday night, according to officials. The cost of fighting the blaze had already reached $3.2 million.

More than 30,000 people frantically packed up belongings Tuesday night as the flames swept through their neighborhoods.

Community officials were planning to begin the process of notifying residents Thursday that their homes were destroyed. For many residents, the official notification was a formality.

Residents recognized their streets on aerial pictures and carefully scrutinized the images to determine the damage.

The shifting conditions of the fire have made it too dangerous for authorities to begin trying to figure out what sparked the blaze that has raged for much of the week and already burned more than 26 square miles.

Colorado Springs, the state's second-largest city, is home to the US Olympic Training Center, NORAD and the Air Force Space Command, which operates military satellites.

However, Unlike the US Air Force Academy, those installations were not threatened by the flames. Some 50 acres of the Academy grounds were blackened, but no injuries or damage to structures has been reported.

Thursday's weather forecast offered some optimism for firefighters, with the temperature expected to reach into the mid-80s — about 5 degrees cooler than Wednesday — and humidity at 15 to 20 percent, about 5 points higher. Winds were forecast to be 10 to 15 mph.

President Barack Obama declared a major disaster late Thursday, making federal funding available in Colorado Springs' El Paso County, as well as Larimer County.

A fire that erupted two weeks ago in Larimer Country – which is still burning – killed a woman and destroyed 257 homes. Obama is set to visit the fire-stricken areas Friday.