COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — 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 necessary 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.
“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.
Even though the fire was no longer active enough on Sunday to produce a large smoke plume, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said it wasn’t safe for people to return home until roads and downed power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.
“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 Denver to visit, spotted the smoke, called her mother and went to the house.