Crews are making progress on a wildfire that has killed two people in the mountains southwest of Denver and scorched 4,100 acres.
Jefferson County officials say the fire is 15 percent contained as firefighters were aided by a second straight day of favorable weather. Lighter winds allowed fire managers to think about helping the 900 residents forced to evacuate their homes.
"It is one of our priorities," says Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jackie Kelly, "getting citizens back to their homes."
They've been out since a wind-swept fire raced through the canyons of the Rocky Mountain foothills Monday afternoon. It's now been confirmed that a prescribed burn conducted by the Colorado State Forest Service is to blame. "I want to say on behalf of the Colorado State Forest Service, this is heartbreaking and we’re sorry," says State Forester Joe Duda.
An investigation has been launched into what went wrong. Duda told reporters safety precautions were taken as a perimeter was established around the 50-acre controlled burn site. On the 4th day of mop-up, 70 mph winds blew a hot spot past the containment. Governor John Hickenlooper has banned prescribed burns as the disaster is investigated.
Two people were killed in the fire and a woman whose house was destroyed is still listed as missing. An urban search and rescue team consisting of 32 people and 6 dogs has been looking for the woman but has turned up no clues. Some are still going through the rubble at her house looking for her remains.
Killed in the fire were 77-year old Sam Lucas and his 76-year old wife Linda. Their bodies were found at their home. Members of their church say they were in contact with the couple as the fire approached. "They were ready to go," says Pastor Jack McCullough of Red Rocks Church, "they had their truck backed up, it was loaded, I think they were just getting whatever last minute items they needed.” McCullough says the Lucas' were well aware of the danger they were in.
"They let us know what was going on and asked for prayer from the congregation," says McCullough, "we were praying for their situation."
More than 400 firefighters continue to battle the fire in the steep canyon terrain. The National Guard has been activated and there is a full air assault being conducted with two air tankers, other fixed wings planes and 4 helicopters.
There’s some urgency to get the fire under full control as soon as possible. Strong winds are forecast for Saturday.