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Colorado fire now most destructive in state history

Msgt Christopher Dewitt / AP

In this Tuesday, June 12, 2013 photo, released Saturday, June 15, 2013, by the U.S. Air Force, an American flag hangs in front of a burning structure in the Black Forest, a thickly wooded rural region north of Colorado Springs, Colo. Authorities reported early Saturday that 473 houses had been incinerated. That compares with a report of a little over 400 just a few hours earlier.

The deadly wildfire that continues to ravage Colorado Springs has destroyed 473 homes and damaged 17 – making it the most destructive fire in Colorado's history. The fire is reminiscent of the Waldo Canyon Fire, which took place only one year ago and destroyed 346 homes.

More than 34,000 homes have been evacuated and the blaze has burned 15,500 acres . The cause of the Black Forest Fire, which broke out on Tuesday and has killed two people, has yet to be determined.

Friday afternoon, neighbors Steve Boone and Lana Foery were able to return to their homes for the first time since fleeing three days earlier. The fire was selective in its devastation -- Boone’s home, which he shared with his wife and two daughters, burned to the ground, while Foery’s remains standing.

As Boone examined the meager remains of what was once his home, he told the Denver Post, “It really is confirmation for me that it’s gone.”

Across the street, Foery cried with joy at the sight of her grandchildren’s hands, which remained imprinted in the cement near her house. “I just can’t believe it,” Foery said. “I can’t believe everything is still standing.”

The fire is now 55 percent contained, following surprise afternoon showers and dramatic efforts by firefighters on Friday. Though most evacuations are still in effect, a marked advance in containment has led authorities to begin lifting some of the evacuation orders in the neighborhoods east, north, and west of the fire, according to NBC station KOAA of Colorado Springs.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Black Forest Colo., residents Marlice Van Zandt hugs fellow resident Linette Perschke who lost her home in the Black Forest Fire during an informational meeting on the progress of the fire at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, Colo., Saturday, June 15, 2013.

The White House Office of the Press Secretary reported that more than 1,000 personnel are responding to the fire. Moreover, both FEMA and the Department of Defense are providing resources to help expand containment.

In a call made to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, President Obama expressed his “gratitude and appreciation for the brave men and women fighting tirelessly to combat these devastating fires,” as well as his condolences to the families of those lost.

Saturday's weather forecast indicates cooler temperatures and an increase in humidity that will hopefully assist firefighters in their efforts to control this relentless fire.