published Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Residents tour Colorado blaze devastation

Cars wait in a traffic line on Vindicator Drive to check in at Eagleview Middle School in order to view their homes in the Waldo Canyon Fire burn areas on Sunday, July 1, 2012, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Even people who know their homes are still standing have some anxiety over temporary visits being allowed today to wildfire-devastated neighborhoods around Colorado Springs. About 10,000 people are still out of their homes, having been among 30,000 who initially fled the most destructive fire in Colorado's history.
Cars wait in a traffic line on Vindicator Drive to check in at Eagleview Middle School in order to view their homes in the Waldo Canyon Fire burn areas on Sunday, July 1, 2012, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Even people who know their homes are still standing have some anxiety over temporary visits being allowed today to wildfire-devastated neighborhoods around Colorado Springs. About 10,000 people are still out of their homes, having been among 30,000 who initially fled the most destructive fire in Colorado's history.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Melted bowling balls in the front yard were among the strange sights that met C.J. Moore upon her return Sunday to her two-story home, now reduced to ashes by the worst wildfire in Colorado history.

“You wouldn’t think bowling balls would melt,” she told The Associated Press by phone from the scene in her Mountain Shadows neighborhood, where she was among residents who were allowed temporary visits to areas most affected by the fire.

More than a week after it sparked on June 23, the Waldo Canyon fire was still being attacked by some 1,500 personnel. But crews working grueling shifts through the hot weekend made progress against the 26-square-mile fire, and authorities said they were confident they finally had built good fire lines in many areas to stop the spread of the flames.

So far, the blaze, now 45 percent contained, has damaged or destroyed nearly 350 homes.

It was just one of several still burning in the West, where parched conditions and searing heat contributed to the woes facing crews on hundreds of square miles across Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

In Colorado Springs, a line of cars a mile long queued up at a middle school checkpoint, where police checked the identification of returning residents and handed them water bottles.

While searching for her great-grandmother’s cast-iron skillets, Moore marveled at the juxtaposition of what burned and what hadn’t. The bowling balls had been garden decorations.

“To find my mail in my mailbox, unscathed. It’s just unreal. Unreal,” she said. “Bird baths are fine. Some of the foliage is fine.”

Three neighbors’ homes were unscathed. Only concrete remained of other homes, including hers. Cars were burned to nothing but charred metal.

“Good Lord! I’ve never seen anything like this. And thank God there was nobody there. Thank God there were no people here. There would have been no been no hope,” Moore said.

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