U.S. firefighters on Friday fought back the
worst forest fire in Colorado's history, giving hope to over 40,000
evacuees whose homes in and around Colorado Springs are threatened by
the monster blaze.
Two people trapped in a home by the fire were found dead Thursday and police are treating the investigations as a homicide, authorities said.
But though the count of destroyed homes was updated overnight from 360 to 379, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said that authorities were encouraged by progress in holding the spread of the blaze.
"We gained some tremendous ground," Maketa said at an early morning press conference, after hundreds of firefighters worked through the night to stomp out hot spots and protect homes and other structures within the fire zone.
"What I witnessed was very encouraging compared to the previous nights. We felt that we held the lines on the fire and that really allowed us to focus on structure protection."
His comments came a day after the fire burnt out of control east of Colorado Springs, the state's second largest city prompting huge traffic jams as residents clogged the highways to flee the fast-moving flames under palls of thick smoke.
More than 41,000 people have been ordered to evacuate.
Fueled by strong winds, high temperatures and low humidity, the blaze grew to over 6,000 hectares Thursday and was just five per cent contained. But Maketa said that there had been "zero-growth" due to calmer winds.
The toll of property destruction surpassed the record set last year when the Waldo Canyon fire destroyed 347 homes in another area of Colorado Springs. The city of over 425,000 residents is some 100 kilometres south of Denver.
Fire officials said there was no evidence of lightning strikes in the area. The region is one of many in Colorado to see huge rural population growth in wooded areas that are susceptible to forest fire.
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