Colorado Wildfire Under Control Enough for Residents to View Destruction

PHOTO: An air tanker drops retardant on a fire  after it engulfed homes in the Rose Canyon area of Herriman, Utah, June 29, 2012.
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About 1,500 firefighters have finally gained an advantage against the worst wildfire in Colorado's history, while some residents have been allowed a first-hand look at their devastated homes and neighborhoods for the first time since they fled more than a week ago.

"Oh, my God. This is my street?" said Shauna Hoey, who saw what was left of her Colorado Springs home Sunday.

"Like a pitiful pile of rocks," Hoey said. "The washer-dryer was down in the hole of basement. The brand-new garage door that I purchased was a little crumpled accordion."

Hoey raised two children in her home before the Waldo Canyon fire exploded June 23, leaving two dead, forcing more than 30,000 people to fee and turning 17,827 acres into ash. Hoey's home is one of the nearly 350 homes that have been destroyed by the fire. Now, her whole life fits into the trunk of her car.

"These are the letters that my grandfather and grandmother wrote each other when he was in World War II," Hoey said. "These could not be replaced."

Ground crews continued to fight the fire as they have contained 55 percent of it, but officials warn that the danger is far from over.

"We still remain focused on the things that could go wrong. We still remain focused on the fire that is not contained," Fire Incident Commander Rich Harvey said.

More than 3,000 people remain evacuated and 150 National Guard troops are on patrol watching for burglars who have hit empty homes and cars at least 22 times.

More evacuation orders were lifted for residents in the Peregrine and Oak Valley neighborhoods in Colorado Springs Sunday night. About 7,000 people reside in those neighborhoods but officials cautioned that services to their homes would be limited, according to ABC News station KMGH.

Firefighters have been aided by C-130 Air Force planes dropping fire retardant over the 26-square-mile fire. Bears have been invading some parts of Colorado Springs because many evacuees left with little notice and forgot to shut windows. The smell of rotting food and trash has attracted bears out of the woods.

The cause of the massive wildfire is still unknown as investigators have been unable to visit the area where the fire broke out June 23. Officials estimate that they will have the fire completely contained by July 16, according to KMGH. The Waldo Canyon fire has cost more than $8 million in damage.

It is just one of several still burning in the West, where parched conditions and searing heat contributed to the woes facing crews on hundreds of square miles across Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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