- Associated Press - Thursday, October 6, 2016

BEULAH, Colo. (AP) - The Latest on a wildfire that destroyed eight homes in southern Colorado (all times local):

12:35 p.m.

Authorities believe a state-owned excavator doing routine maintenance somehow started a wildfire that destroyed eight homes in southern Colorado.

Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor said Thursday that the operator of the Colorado Department of Transportation machinery was moving a stone Monday when he noticed a fire had ignited. The Pueblo Chieftain (https://bit.ly/2dycHje ) reports that the operator unsuccessfully tried to stamp it out with the earthmover’s bucket before calling 911.

Taylor says it’s not clear exactly how the machine started the fire - such as by creating a spark by scraping rocks or with its exhaust. He says the operator isn’t a smoker.

He stressed that the finding is preliminary and said that scientific evidence is still pending.

State transportation chief Mike Brown said he agreed with the findings of the investigation into the fire, which forced the evacuation of hundreds of people in the rural community of Beulah near Pueblo.

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8:15 a.m.

Firefighters have been making progress in cooler and calmer weather to contain the wildfire that destroyed eight homes in southern Colorado.

The 8 square mile Beulah Hill Fire was 50 percent contained Thursday, a day after a small group of evacuees became the first to be allowed to return home.

The Pueblo Chieftain (https://bit.ly/2e5p0FG ) reports that residents at a standing-room only community meeting Wednesday evening cheered both pieces of news.

Plans are in the works to return more evacuees.

___

Information from: The Pueblo Chieftain, https://www.chieftain.com

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