Residents tour Colo. blaze devastation

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Melted bowling balls in the front yard were among the strange sights that met C.J. Moore upon her return Sunday to her two-story home, now reduced to ashes by the worst wildfire in Colorado history.

“You wouldn’t think bowling balls would melt,” she told The Associated Press by phone from the scene in her Mountain Shadows neighborhood, where she was among residents who were allowed temporary visits to areas most affected by the fire.

More than a week after it sparked on June 23, the Waldo Canyon fire was still being attacked by some 1,500 personnel. But crews working grueling shifts through the hot weekend made progress against the 26-square-mile fire, and authorities said they were confident they finally had built good fire lines in many areas to stop the spread of the flames.

The blaze, now 45 percent contained, has damaged or destroyed nearly 350 homes.

It was 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.

In Colorado Springs, a line of cars a mile long queued up at a middle school checkpoint, where police checked the identification of returning residents and handed them water bottles.

While searching for her great-grandmother’s cast-iron skillets, Moore marveled at the juxtaposition of what burned and what hadn’t. The bowling balls had been garden decorations.

“To find my mail in my mailbox, unscathed. It’s just unreal. Unreal,” she said. “Bird baths are fine. Some of the foliage is fine.”

Three neighbors’ homes were unscathed. Only concrete remained of other homes, including hers. Cars were burned to nothing but charred metal.

Authorities said they would lift more evacuation orders Sunday night, bringing the total number of people who remain blocked from their homes down to 3,000 from more than 30,000.

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