BLACK FOREST, Colo. — The number of homes destroyed in the Black Forest Fire rose to 473 officials said early Saturday morning.
The good news was that some residents of Black Forest were allowed to return home late Friday afternoon as some of the mandatory evacuations were lifted and changed to pre-evacuation orders.
The changes include all zones within the city limits of Colorado Springs as well as locations west of Hwy. 83.
Mandatory Evacuations remained in place from Hwy. 83 east to Eastonville Rd. and from the El Paso County line south to Burgess Rd. and Rex Rd.
Incident commander Rich Harvey said containment was increased to 30 percent Friday. He said the fight is not over and no one has been released. Full containment is expected by June 20.
The fire has partially damaged 17 homes, and 3,181 homes appear to be unaffected, according to the latest preliminary home assessment.
A community meeting for residents was scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument.
At least two people died in the fire and a criminal investigation related to how the fire started Tuesday afternoon is underway. Their remains were found Thursday afternoon in their garage. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa says they appeared to be preparing to evacuate.
A tip line and email address are set up for anyone with information about the case: 719-444-8397 or email BlackForestFireTipLine@elpasoco.com.
“My heart, and I know the hearts of this community, go out to their family,” Maketa said.
A thunderstorm passed over the fire zone late Friday afternoon and it brought brief but welcome rain. The storm cooled temperatures a bit and helped raise humidity in the area.
But as for the fire itself, growth has leveled off, with the burn area estimated at between 13,000 and 15,000 acres.
“We did not lose large chunks of land (Thursday) night,” Maketa said, enthusiastically.
Chief of Police Peter Carey said troopers from the National Guard will help Springs police officers patrol the evacuated areas to make sure they are safe.
It is now the most destructive fire in terms of property loss than any other in Colorado history, having destroyed 473 homes and damaged another 17.
LINK: Area A-1 evacuation map
Black Forest Evacuation Zones
In Black Forest, the mandatory evacuation zone was north to County Line Road, west to Highway 83, east to Eastonville Road, and south to Burgess Road.
The Red Cross is now operating shelters in the following locations:
Palmer Ridge High School (19255 Monument Rd., Monument). As of noon Thursday, there were 109 people registered there.
Elbert County Fairgrounds (95 Ute Ave, Kiowa). As of noon Thursday, there were 346 people registered there.
Small animal assistance was being offered at Powers Pet Emergency, which can be reached at 719-473-0482.
Residents can call 719-444-8393, or email authorities for info at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the fire.