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Continued: Crews battling Colorado wildfire take lessons from last year; some evacuation orders lifted

  • Article by: DAN ELLIOTT , Associated Press
  • Last update: June 15, 2013 - 1:30 AM

"I'm soaking wet and I'm a little chilly, but I've never been so happy to say this," he said.

The fire zone remained at 25 square miles, thanks to lighter winds and firefighters' efforts to stamp out flare-ups. Sheriff's deputies patrolling for looters directed crews to dozens of hot spots.

Harvey is the federal official who also oversaw the battle against the Waldo Canyon Fire. He said it was just coincidence that Colorado Springs saw two such destructive blazes in 12 months.

"This could happen anywhere," he said.

Still, the coincidence is a reminder of the challenges of tamping down wildfires across the West, especially with growing populations, rising temperatures and a historic drought.

Developers describe Black Forest as the largest contiguous stretch of ponderosa pine in the United States — a thick, wide carpet of vegetation rolling down from the Rampart Range that thins out to the high grasslands of Colorado's eastern plains. Once home to rural towns and summer cabins, it is now dotted with million-dollar homes and gated communities as a result of the state's population boom over the past two decades.

Waldo Canyon was one of the last subdivisions in Colorado Springs, bumping up directly against the pine-clad wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.

Other fires burned in Colorado, California and New Mexico. A southern New Mexico fire reached the historic mining town of Kingston, but an official said crews protected buildings there.

In Canon City, 50 miles southwest of Black Forest, the 5-square-mile Royal Gorge Fire was 40 percent contained and evacuation orders were lifted. A 350-acre fire sparked by lightning in Rocky Mountain National Park was 30 percent contained.

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