COLORADO SPRINGS — With evacuees anxious to return, firefighters worked Sunday to dig up and extinguish hot spots to protect homes spared by the most destructive wildfire in Colorado’s history.
The labor-intensive work is needed because extremely dry grass and trees could quickly ignite if wind stirs up hot spots in the densely wooded Black Forest near Colorado Springs.
Firefighters did get some help from the weather as steady rain moved through the area Sunday afternoon. But that weather came with some lightning, which sparked a small grass fire near one home.
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.
Even though the fire was no longer active enough Sunday to produce a large smoke plume, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said it was not safe for people to return home until roads and downed power lines were repaired.
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.
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, but Maketa said some were then refusing to leave once they were done. He urged fire victims to cooperate or risk being arrested.
It’s unknown what sparked the blaze, but investigators believe it was human-caused and have asked for help from the state and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as they sift the ash.