Two people died while trying to flee a wildfire in Colorado that has burned down 360 homes, in the western US state’s most destructive blaze ever, officials said.
Some 38,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes as the blaze reached the edge of Colorado Springs, but officials voiced hope as the numbers of homes destroyed and evacuations did not grow during the day.
The Black Forest fire, which broke out Tuesday, was described as five percent contained by Thursday afternoon, up from zero contained at the start of the day.
The two victims were found near their car in a heavily wooded area, and appeared to have been trying to pack belongings and flee when they were overtaken by the flames, said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.
“It appears as though the individuals were in the garage, the car doors were open, as though they were loading or grabbing last-minute things,” he said.
All indications are… that they were planning to depart very quickly,” he said.
“When we get a fire and it’s being carried by the winds, and it can jump from tree to tree, it can be very deadly — and move very quickly,” he said in a late afternoon briefing.
Maketa gave no updated figure for the number of homes destroyed, which was given as 360 Thursday morning. “I am very hopeful that we didn’t lose any homes today,” he told reporters.
“That would be a huge victory. If we did lose any it was very few,” he said.
The fire — the worst of several blazes ravaging the state — has forced the evacuation of 13,000 homes over 15,700 acres, or roughly 25 square miles. It was been fanned by high temperatures, dry conditions and strong winds.
Some 750 firefighters are involved in battling the blaze, helped by federal authorities with resources including two C-130 aircraft, the Department of Defense announced.
The blaze is more destructive than the last year’s Waldo Canyon fire west of Colorado Springs, which burned 347 homes to the ground.
Among other major fires in the state, the Royal Gorge fire southwest of Colorado Springs has consumed more than 3,162 acres and was 20 percent contained by Thursday, according to the forest fire website Inciweb.