The Waldo Canyon Fire, the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history having destroyed 346 homes, is 70 percent contained as of Monday night. Firefighters had one of their most successful days containing the fire despite temperatures remaining above 90 degrees since mid-June.
1,523 firefighters remain on the scene battling the blaze that has already burned 17,920 acres and left two people dead.
The Gazette reports that utility crews are working to restore natural gas to more than 3,000 homes in the region and hope to have that done by mid-week. But crews must go house to house making sure there are no leaks first before the gas gets turned back on.
Evacuation orders have been lifted for Eileen Court, Centauri Road, Boardwalk Drive and Corporate Plaza Drive as of Monday, according to 9News, and gas has been restored to homes in those areas as well. However, residents returning home remain on pre-evacuation notice as potential for fire growth remains high.
On Sunday, some residents were allowed to temporarily return to their homes for the first time since being evacuated. Many remarked at the chaos that their neighborhoods have been reduced to. "It's crazy," Bill Simmons said to The Associated Press regarding the conditions of his home which remains intact and his neighbors' homes which were reduced to ashes. "The house across the street is burned to the foundation and the other side of the street is untouched."
The Associated Press also reports that a "bear invasion" has been challenging authorities in the region. Evacuees rushed away from their homes and didn't have time to properly secure garbage -- some bears, pushed out of their forest habitat from the fire, have picked up the scent and have come in search of a meal.
The devastation from the fire isn't the only thing residents need worry about -- thieves are taking advantage of the evacuated areas and looting homes. At least 32 homes were burglarized and dozens of evacuees' cars were broken into in the evacuation zones since the fire erupted about a week ago, according to Bloomberg. There have been three arrests so far.
The string of burglaries has some wondering if Colorado Springs' anti-tax movement is partially to blame for a lack of resources to protect the area effectively. Bloomberg reports that the city has 50 fewer police and 39 fewer firefighters than five years ago.
In 2010, Colorado Springs had a nearly $28 million budget shortfall so the city government sold police helicopters on the Internet, cut firefighter and police jobs -- including burglary investigators, according to The Denver Post -- asked residents to volunteer to mow public green spaces, and turned off more than thirty percent of the city's streetlights.
Karin White, a 54-year-old resident who returned home to a looted and vandalized home, thinks that the smaller force may have "impacted the response," she said to Bloomberg.
Mayor Steve Bach, an anti-tax advocate advocate, says that the lack of tax revenue has not affected the handling of the wildfire, but he offered a dire warning after a press briefing about the fire: "Forget the fire, at our current cost curve, we'll be insolvent in eight years."
Rebuilding in the wake of the Waldo Canyon Fire will be expensive and unfortunately one of the region's main sources of income -- tourism to the Garden of the Gods, historic Manitou Springs, Pikes Peak Cog Railway -- is deeply affected by the disaster. 7News reports that areas like Manitou are usually packed with tourists this time of year, but the streets remain only peppered with visitors. The railway which usually has around 2,000 visitors around the 4th of July holiday is hoping to just get close to 1,000 this year.
The fire continues to burn and smolder and flame lengths have been measured at one-to-two-feet burning on open ground fuels. And according to InciWeb.org, Thunderstorms in the area continue to make firefighters' jobs more difficult with increased wind speeds.
The cause of the Waldo Canyon Fire is still under investigation and has cost $12.4 million to date.
AP NATIONAL WILDFIRE TRACKER:
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