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Residents allowed at sites where their homes burned

Homeowners who were evacuated from Colorado Springs will be allowed to tour the neighborhoods where their homes burned. 

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Their house didn't smell of smoke. Their electricity was out for two or three days but the popsicles in their freezer didn't melt, she said.

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Around the corner, retiree Nina Apsey wandered in search of eight small, solar-powered lights that somebody had taken from her yard during the evacuation.

"I'm assuming it was vandalism," she said.

Prized possessions still piled into the Hyundai sport-utility vehicle in her garage included caribou antlers and antelope and deer head mounts. As flames bore down, she'd also taken a small ceramic cowboy statue. Her late husband taught her how to hunt. He resembled the cowboy, she said.

She wasn't too perturbed about her missing lights because nothing else was touched.

"If that's the worst that happened to me, I'm blessed," she said.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire that broke out on June 23, and which so far has cost $8.8 million to battle. Dangerous conditions had kept them from beginning their inquiry.

Among the fires elsewhere in the West:

— Utah: Residents were sifting through the ashes of more than 50 houses destroyed by a central Utah wildfire. Homeowners were allowed to return Saturday to Indianola along Utah's scenic Route 89. In all, eight wildfires are burning across Utah.

— Montana: Authorities in eastern Montana ordered the evacuation of several communities Saturday as the Ash Creek Complex fires, which has burned more than 70 homes this week, consumed another 72 square miles. The blaze grew to 244 square miles overnight.

Wyoming: A wind-driven wildfire in a sparsely populated area of southeastern Wyoming exploded from eight square miles to nearly 58 square miles in a single day, and an unknown number of structures have burned. About 200 structures were considered threatened.

Idaho: A fast-moving 1,000-acre wildfire in eastern Idaho that destroyed 66 homes and 29 outbuildings was expected to be contained Saturday. Some 1,000 residents were evacuated; it was unclear when they would be allowed back.

— Colorado: The last evacuees from the High Park Fire in northern Colorado have been allowed to return home as crews get closer to full containment. The 136-square-mile fire killed one resident and destroyed 259 houses, a state record until the fire near Colorado Springs destroyed 346 homes. In western Colorado, the 18-square-mile Pine Ridge Fire was 10 percent contained.

Associated Press writers Paul Foy in Salt Lake City, Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho, and Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this report.

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