Colorado Springs Fire: Estes Park in 'Mop Up' Stage as Mandatory Evacuations Continue

 @ceylanwrites
on June 24 2012 11:05 AM

Two new Colorado wildfires that erupted Saturday have swept over 2,000 acres and forced thousands of residents to evacuate their homes, CBS news reported.

Colorado is undergoing one of its most severe wildfire seasons ever, with seven wildfires burning Sunday morning. The Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs, which was the larger of the two fires that broke out Saturday, has caused some 5,000 residents of Manitou Springs to evacuate their homes, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported. Evacuations are also in place in the towns of Cascade and Ute Pass.

We're looking around 10, 11 o'clock in the morning. The temperatures are going to start going up, the humidity is going to start going down. That's when fires can change their behavior dramatically, the Rev. David Hunting, the Manitou Springs fire department's chaplain and public information officer, told CBS News.

Meanwhile, another fire that sparked on Saturday is in the mopping-up stages, Estes Park fire chief Scott Dorman said in an evening briefing for evacuees, reported by the Reporter Herald.

Even though we lost 21 homes, which is a huge tragedy, we saved many homes because of firefighters' efforts, Dorman said.

The fire started at an Estes Park cabin at noon on Saturday and quickly spread across 20 acres, consuming 21 homes and cabins in the tourist town. The cause of the fire is uncertain and being investigated. Two large helicopters were sent to put out what was dubbed as the Woodland Heights fire.

A spokesman for the Red Cross told the Reporter Herald that 200 people checked into hospital, but an estimated 80 percent were tourists or visitors and have since left.

In Utah, meanwhile, more than 2,000 evacuees were allowed to return to their homes in Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain after officials said a fire no longer posed a threat.

We feel comfortable letting people back in, Dan Osterkamp, Bureau of Land Management West Desert District spokesman, told the crowd. He added, there is little to no chance of re-evacuation.

Cheers and applause erupted from members of the 588 homes affected after the announcement, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.  While some retuned home immediately after the announcement, many stayed behind to find out more about the fire.

Just the thought of [leaving], a resident told the Salt Lake Tribune. I have had children born in this house and to think it might not be here when I came back, it was really overwhelming.

Meanwhile, crews continued to battle with the relentless fire that spread over 6,023-acres in the foothills of the Lake Mountains west of Utah Lake. Some 500 firefighters are working on the blaze and are expected to fully contain it by Tuesday.

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