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Black Forest Fire The Most Destructive In Colorado's History

Jun 13, 2013
Originally published on June 13, 2013 5:35 pm
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And I'm Melissa Block.

Colorado is dealing with the most destructive wildfire in the state's history. And now it's a deadly fire, too. The El Paso Sheriff's office says it recovered two bodies today. The Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs has destroyed at least 360 homes and is only five percent contained.

Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney reports.

ERIC WHITNEY, BYLINE: Local television in Colorado Springs looks like a summer re-run of last year's devastating wildfires. Once again, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Makita is appearing daily and delivering bad news. Yesterday, he told the public 92 homes had been confirmed destroyed. This morning, he said that number had almost quadrupled overnight.

SHERIFF TERRY MAKITA: Those numbers are pretty staggering. The winds yesterday really stirred the fire and pushed it off in quite a few different directions.

WHITNEY: The sheriff's office is posting online a frequently updated list of homes destroyed, damaged and unharmed. At a shelter site for large animals, east of the fire's perimeter this morning, 68-year-old Marvin Ornes checked the list and shared the news with his wife.

MARVIN ORNES: Guess what? We found our house number and it appears to be OK.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's on the OK list?

ORNES: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yes.

WHITNEY: Good news for now. Their house survived one pass of the fire through their neighborhood, but Sheriff Makita warns that it could still come roaring back.

MAKITA: You can look at it and not see active fire, look back 10 minutes later, a gust will come through and you'll be at full flames again stretching 30-40 feet, and being carried by the wind.

WHITNEY: With an evacuation area stretching across three counties, people are worried about looting. But Lieutenant Colonel Mitch Utterback with the Colorado National Guard is trying to reassure the public.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL MITCH UTTERBACK: There's somebody in a uniform with a Humvee watching your neighborhood, along with the sheriff and the police, making sure the right people get in there and the wrong people don't.

WHITNEY: The weather forecast is calling for continued hot, dry and windy conditions, exactly the opposite of what Colorado Springs needs now.

For NPR News, I'm Eric Whitney in El Paso County, Colorado. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.