Colorado Fires Destroy Record Number Of Homes
The current wildfires still blazing in the Colorado region, have now reached epic proportions with fires destroying up to a record 248 homes in the last two weeks.
The number of homes destroyed reached the highest mark in U.S. history on Sunday as residents of a subdivision near Fort Collins learned that 57 more homes in their neighborhood had been lost, authorities said.
Fire officials had previously said that 191 homes had burned, the most in state history. The High Park Fire is the second-largest wildfire and among the most expensive in Colorado's history. It has scorched more than 130 square miles and was just 45 percent contained on Sunday, The Denver Post reported.
With a total of eight fires burning, Colorado is having its worst wildfire season in a decade.
A fire near Colorado Springs erupted Saturday and grew out of control to more than 3 square miles early Sunday, prompting the evacuation of more than 11,000 residents and an unknown number of tourists. Authorities said Sunday that they were allowing about 5,000 of those residents to return.
Also on Saturday, a blaze destroyed structures near the mountain community of Estes Park, where many visitors stay while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. The Larimer County Sheriff's Office said Sunday that 22 homes and 2 outbuildings had been burned.
"We're used to flooding and tornadoes, nothing like this," said Amanda Rice, who recently moved to the area from Rock Falls, Ill. Rice, her husband, four children and dog left a Manitou Springs hotel late Saturday.
Rice, scared when she saw flames, took her family to the evacuation center before she was told to go.
"It was just this God-awful orange glow. It was surreal. It honestly looked like hell was opening up," Rice said Sunday.
With Colorado midway through its worst wildfire season in a decade, travelers have seen some of their favorite sites closed to the public, obscured by smoke and haze. Some travelers were awoken with evacuation orders.
Plumes of gray and white smoke poured from the mountains Sunday, obscuring at times Pikes Peak, the most-summited high-elevation mountain in the nation and inspiration for the song "America The Beautiful." Winds were pushing smoke away from Colorado Springs, but residents and tourists watched nervously as haze wrapped around the peak.
Families planning whitewater rafting trips or visits to the stunning red-rock formations in Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs were instead spending their vacations passing out bottled water and setting up cots in evacuee centers.