Waldo Canyon Fire claims first victim, 15 percent contained, Obama tours area

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The first known death from the Waldo Canyon fire was reported this morning as firefighters continue a sixth day working to contain the wildfire that has so far burned 18,500 acres, destroyed 346 homes, and forced more than 35,000 people to evacuate.

Update 2:
Obama to tour site of worst-ever Colorado wildfire
Keith Coffman and Jeff Mason
3:11 p.m. EDT, June 29, 2012

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) – President Barack Obama arrived in Colorado on Friday to tour the devastation left by a Colorado wildfire he declared a “major disaster” that has destroyed 347 homes and forced the evacuation of 35,000 people from the edge of the state’s second-largest city.

Before landing, Air Force One flew over part of the Rocky Mountains where smoke could be seen rising from the areas ravaged by what officials say is the most destructive blaze in state history. At least one death has been blamed on the fire.

The blaze had roared unchecked on Tuesday night through communities in the northwestern corner of the city and threatened the U.S. Air Force Academy campus. But the lighter winds that helped firefighters gain new ground against the inferno on Thursday were expected to continue on Friday, fire officials said at a news conference.

They said the wildfire did not grow overnight and it is now 15 percent contained.

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Weather may bring some relief from raging Colorado wildfires

Keith Coffman
1:19 p.m. EDT, June 28, 2012

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) – Cooler temperatures and lighter winds helped firefighters on Thursday in the battle against Colorado’s Waldo Canyon fire, which has destroyed hundreds of homes and forced more than 35,000 people to flee.

Thursday marked the first day in five days when a so-called red flag warning – indicating conditions that could increase wildfire activity – was not being posted in the Colorado Springs area, authorities said.

Despite the weather relief, the Waldo Canyon blaze remained devastating and only 5 percent contained, officials said. Exceptional high temperatures and strong winds have fueled the blaze, which started on Saturday.

It has burned 18,500 acres near Colorado Springs, the state’s second-largest city, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“There was nothing left in some areas, burned out foundations that were smoldering. It looked like a nuclear weapon had been dropped. It’s as close to hell as I could imagine,” said Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, who toured the heavily damaged Mountain Shadows subdivision.

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