“I mean, there’s a lifetime of things that people collect in these homes, and they’ve lost it all,” said Schneider, vice president of the 1,700-home community association for the Mountain Shadows neighborhood.
Amid the devastation in the foothills of Colorado Springs, there were hopeful signs. Weather conditions improved Thursday and some evacuation orders were lifted by the evening, though there was no immediate word on how many people would be allowed back. People were told to still be ready to flee at a moment’s notice.
The Air Force Academy was letting residents return Friday morning and officials said normal operations would resume throughout most of the academy.
“We’re gaining more confidence,” said Bret Waters, director of the Colorado Springs emergency management office. “It doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods.”
More than 30,000 people frantically packed up belongings Tuesday night as the flames swept through their neighborhoods.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation said two people have been arrested in connection with a burglary at an evacuated home.
Community officials began the process of notifying residents Thursday that their homes were destroyed. The lists of more than 30 street names were posted at a local high school, listing those areas with heavy damage. Anxious residents scanned the sheets, but for many, the official notification was a formality. They recognized their street on aerial pictures and carefully scrutinize the images to determine the damage. Photos and video from The Associated Press and the Denver Post showed widespread damage.
Colorado Springs, the state’s second-largest city, is home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, NORAD and the Air Force Space Command, which operates military satellites. They were not threatened.
Conditions were still too dicey to allow authorities to begin trying to figure out what sparked the blaze that has raged for much of the week and already burned more than 26 square miles.
Authorities said earlier the fire was 29 square miles. More precise mapping often results in revisions of size estimates for active fires.
More than 1,000 personnel and six helicopters were fighting the fire, which had cost at least $3.2 million to fight.
All eight Air Force cargo planes equipped to fight wildfires will be operating Saturday out of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, the Air Force said.
This will be the first time the entire fleet has been activated simultaneously since 2008, Col. Jerry Champlin said.
Four of the planes are already attacking Colorado wildfires from Peterson. Late Thursday, U.S. Northern Command approved a Forest Service request to activate the other four.
The C-130s are assigned to National Guard and Reserve units in California, Colorado, North Carolina and Wyoming.