(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) — Authorities are placing the containment figure on the Black Forest fire at 45 percent, saying that evacuation orders will begin being slowly lifted.
The wildfire has destroyed nearly 500 homes and is being considered one of the most destructive in Colorado history. Nonetheless, officials are urging residents not to attempt to get around the evacuation orders. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said, “When it is safe and we can open it up, we want to open it up.”
Fire crews got a major break Friday after thunderstorms cooled the area down. Decreased winds have also helped to calm the situation, but fire officials say there are still hot spots that could be the catalyst for another fire to burn if drier conditions continue.
Police on Thursday began investigating the deaths of two people found within the fire zone as the wildfire turned deadly.
Two bodies were found in their garage near their car with the doors open Thursday. It appears they were loading last-minute items and had waited too long before evacuating, according to El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, who says friends told police they had just talked to the couple who died trying to escape the flames.
“They could see a glow to the West. They were packing their personal belongings to get out,” Maketa says friends of the couple told authorities.
Though Maketa has given no indication that the fire was intentionally set to the home, the police have started a criminal investigation into the pair’s deaths.
More than 40,000 people were under mandatory orders to evacuate on Thursday, some of which were lifted Friday. During early evacuations, some people refused to leave the area, prompting fears that more bodies could be found.
Sheriff Maketa said Thursday that approximately 38,000 people and 13,000 homes have already been evacuated or affected by the evacuations.
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Ralph Ellis and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
Hope King, CNN
Jeanne Sahadi, CNN