2 July 2012

Nigeria: People Return to Charred Cities After Colorado Wildfires

Residents began returning to charred communities on Sunday after the most destructive wildfires in Colorado history forced tens of thousands of people from their homes and left the landscape a blackened wasteland.

Bears and burglars posed further danger to home owners who headed back to towns and cities after the fires, which killed two people, reports Reuters.

The so-called Waldo Canyon Fire scorched nearly 17,000 acres (6,880 hectares) and devastated communities around Colorado Springs, the state's second-largest city.

Governor John Hickenlooper said he believed the worst was over and almost all of the seven blazes were under control.

"Now we're beginning to look at how do we rebuild and begin the recovery. But we also know that Mother Nature can be pretty fickle out there so we're keeping ourselves very alert," Hickenlooper told CNN's "State of the Union."

Two more houses were looted overnight for a total of 24 during the disaster that forced 35,000 residents to evacuate, authorities said.

To maintain order, 165 National Guard troops were on the ground under orders from President Barack Obama, who toured the area on Friday.

Many of those allowed to stay home remained without power.

The governor described the devastation he saw flying over the Pike National Forest west of Colorado Springs, a city of more than 400,000 about 50 miles (80 km) south of Denver.

"It was like your worst nightmare of a movie, trying to show what the Apocalypse or Armageddon would look like," Hickenlooper said on CNN.

"I thought it was trees burning, as we got closer it was homes."

Firefighters remain challenged by a wildfire in Grand Junction in western Colorado, the only one of seven wildfires that was not yet under control, he said.

"But the largest one that was almost 88,000 acres (35,610 hectares), we called the Hyde Park fire just west of Fort Collins, it is now completely contained," Hickenlooper said.

Incident commander Rich Harvey said a force of 1,534 firefighters remained on the ground.

"We are cautiously optimistic. The perimeter is stable," Harvey told reporters early Sunday.

He said there was a danger from bears wandering about, possibly displaced by the fires.

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