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Colorado wildfire evacuees return to charred neighborhoods, devastation


Jerilee Bennett / Colorado Springs Gazette via AP

Jaycie Francis, right, is comforted by her boyfriend, James Folk as they look at a destroyed house that belonged to Francis' aunt on Thursday n the Black Forest burn area.

Five days after a massive wildfire began to cut a lethal path through Colorado Springs, killing two people and destroying 473 homes, some residents were returning home over the weekend to face the devastation.


Fire crews fighting the monstrous Black Forest Fire made strides over the weekend, bringing the blaze to 65 percent containment, following surprise showers and mild winds Friday. By Sunday afternoon officials were optimistic containment would improve even more by early Monday.

Authorities have lifted some of the evacuation orders in neighborhoods surrounding the 15,500-acre fire, according to NBC station KOAA of Colorado Springs.

Jack and Judy Roe were sure their home was among the hundreds wrecked by the ferocious flames but discovered it largely intact when they came back to their neighborhood.

“We’ve been on such an emotional roller coaster over this, thinking we had lost everything and then to find out that it’s still there,” Judy Roe told The Associated Press. “It was a big relief to us, but I mean, our hearts were breaking for our neighbors.”

Neighbors Steve Boone and Lana Foery returned to their homes Friday afternoon. The fire was selectively destructive – Boone’s home, which he shared with his wife and two daughters, burned to the ground; Foery’s still stands.

“It really is confirmation for me that it’s gone,” Boone told The Denver Post.

Across the street, Foery wept with joy at the sight of her grandchildren’s hands imprinted in the cement near her home, unscathed by the fire.

“I just can’t believe it,” Foery told The Denver Post. “I can’t believe everything is still standing.”

Bob and Barbara Metzger’s home was completely ravaged, but their car and clotheslines survived the Black Forest Fire’s deadly march through their neighborhood.

“As long as the world around me looks the same, I’ll be fine,” Barbara Metzger told the AP, reportedly holding up a photograph of her charred house still flanked by trees. “We’ll rebuild.”

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Black Forest Colo., residents Marlice Van Zandt, center in green, hugs fellow resident Linette Perschke, in blue, 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. on Saturday

Officials have yet to determine what sparked the Black Forest Fire, which broke out Tuesday amid record-setting heat and arid conditions. It has cost upwards of $3.5 million to battle the blaze, according to the AP.

The White House Office of the Press Secretary reported that over 1,000 personnel are responding to the fire. FEMA and the Department of Defense are contributing 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.

The fire is reminiscent of the Waldo Canyon Fire in northwest Colorado Springs a year ago, which destroyed 346 homes.

NBC News' Gillian Spears and The Associated Press contributed to this report.