Cooler Temperatures Mean Better News For Colorado

In Colorado, there is some optimism amid the ruins of hundreds of homes destroyed by a wildfire. Since Saturday, the Waldo Canyon fire has scorched an area about four miles wide by seven miles long. The weather Thursday has improved for fire crews.


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish. In Colorado today, some optimism, despite the hundreds of homes that have been destroyed by a wildfire. Since Saturday, the Waldo Canyon fire has scorched an area about four miles wide by seven miles long. Wind and hot, dry weather helped fan the flames and helped them spread quickly.

Now, as NPR's Jeff Brady reports from Colorado Springs, the weather has improved for fire crews.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: I'm looking across a valley toward the foothills of the Rockies. There is brownish-white smoke coming up from a few spots, one near a subdivision. Earlier, I saw huge orange flames as big as trees there. The entire region smells like one big campfire, but Jerri Mar with the U.S. Forest Service says she's optimistic because forecasters have lifted their fire weather warnings.

JERRI MAR: Today, we're really excited because today is the first day, I'm thinking, in like, maybe five or so days that we haven't had red flag warnings. You know, we've been standing out here and the wind has been hammering us.

BRADY: Along with cooler, calmer weather, about half of the nation's wildfire fighting resources are now focused on this and eight other fires in Colorado.

RICH HARVEY: We have resources on this fire from an alphabet soup of agencies.

BRADY: Rich Harvey is the incident commander for the Waldo Canyon fire. Among the agencies, the Department of Defense. Of particular concern, the sprawling Air Force Academy campus, which appears to have been spared. Harvey says local fire agencies from across the west also are showing up.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I'm from Carson City, Nevada. A Carson City Fire Department engine just showed up today to help, so we're putting those folks on the line.

BRADY: The Colorado Springs Fire Department says crews are having an easier time protecting houses now. In the past day, no more houses were lost. At a La Quinta Inn, even before the housekeepers were finished making their rounds today, Lisa Reeves and her family checked in.

LISA REEVES: We've just been hanging out. We went to a friend's house for a couple days. They have no air, so it's hotter than blue blazes in there, so we're coming back to the hotel to stay here for a bit to cool off.

BRADY: Reeves is among the more than 35,000 people who are still not allowed to return home. She, her husband, two teenagers and a Shih Tzu named Boston evacuated Saturday. Even with aerial photos showing entire neighborhoods leveled by fire, Reeves hopes her house is not among the hundreds destroyed.

REEVES: We just don't know. We can see from the mountainside how it's all burnt and stuff there and you just can't see, really, any houses and what's going on. And, of course, they're not letting you anywhere near it.

BRADY: Reeves says she registered her address with the city. Once a list of damage is compiled, authorities plan to call each homeowner individually.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Colorado Springs.

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