Colorado blaze: Most destructive in history (+video)
Leaving hundreds of homes in its wake, Colorado's fire has caused more damage than any other in the state. Aerial images clearly show the damage. Several western fires are still burning.
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Bill and Lois Bartlett said they believe their neighborhood was spared, but remained wary as they waited at a YMCA shelter set up by the Red Cross.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Wildfires sweeping the west
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"I've been through a lot of stuff like this before but not in civilian life," said Bill Bartlett, who flew B-17 bombers during World War II.
His wife Lois said the Red Cross bought them two special cots to make them more comfortable but still found staying at the shelter difficult. "You don't have any privacy. You can't look at TV and get the news," she said.
The weather forecast offered some optimism for firefighters to make progress, with the temperature expected to reach into the mid-80s — about 5 degrees cooler than Wednesday — and humidity 15 to 20 percent, about 5 points higher. Winds were forecast to be 10 to 15 mph.
The fire blackened up to 50 acres along the southwest boundary of the Air Force Academy campus, said Anne Rys-Sikora, a spokeswoman for the firefighters. No injuries or damage to structures — including the iconic Cadet Chapel — were reported.
Fort Carson, an Army infantry post about 15 miles from the academy, sent 120 soldiers along with bulldozers and other heavy equipment to help clear a line to stop the fire on the academy. Rys-Sikora said the academy was not getting a disproportionate share of equipment and firefighters.
The Flying W Ranch, a popular tourist attraction near Colorado Springs, was severely damaged in the blaze. But authorities let people into the area to check on cattle. John Hendrix, who volunteers at the Flying W, said 47 animals were accounted for.
"Some of them are pretty scorched up, but they are still there. We didn't lose one," Hendrix said.
Among the fires elsewhere in the West:
— A 72-square-mile wildfire in central Utah has destroyed at least 56 structures and continues to burn with just 20 percent containment, authorities said. Officials expected the damage estimate to rise as they continue their assessment.
— The smaller fire near St. George started Wednesday and had grown to 2,000 acres by midnight, forcing some residents to evacuate. The fire was burning about three miles north of Zion National Park. At least eight structures were destroyed.
— Fire crews in southeastern Montana used a break in the weather to dig containment lines around twowildfires that have burned 200 square miles and dozens of homes. The improved conditions led to residents clamoring to be let back in to check their properties and assess the damage, but authorities kept evacuation orders in place for hundreds of people.
— A wildfire in the Bridger-Teton National Forest has grown from about 12,000 acres to 23,000 acres, or nearly 36 square miles, officials said.
— In northern Colorado, about 1,900 people were allowed back into their homes on Thursday more than two weeks after the devastating High Park Fire erupted. The blaze was 75 percent contained. The fire killed one woman and destroyed 257 homes, then a state record that was eclipsed by the Colorado Springs fire.
Associated Press writers Dan Elliott and Rema Rahman in Denver, Chris Carlson in Colorado Springs, Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyo., Whitney Phillips in Salt Lake City, Matthew Brown in Roundup, Mont., and Matt Volz in Helena, Mont., contributed to this report.