COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – 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 wouldnt 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 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.
So far, the blaze, now 45 percent contained, has damaged or destroyed nearly 350 homes.
It was 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.
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 at the peak of the fire.
A bear invasion confronted a few mountain enclaves west of Colorado Springs. The scent of trash had enticed black bears pushed out of their usual forest habitat by fire.
People who left in a hurry didnt take typical precautions to secure household trash against wildlife, said El Paso County Sheriffs Lt. Jeff Kramer.
So thats become an attraction for the bears, Kramer said.
State game officials were trying to shoo the bears out, he said, and trash bins were in place to help volunteers and returning homeowners throw stuff out.
Among the fires elsewhere in the West:
Fire commanders say Utahs largest wildfire has consumed more than 150 square miles and shows no sign of burning itself out.
Crews in eastern Montana strengthened fire lines overnight on a 246-square-mile complex of blazes burning about 10 miles west of Lame Deer.
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.
Firefighters in eastern Idaho had the 1,038-acre Charlotte fire 80 percent contained Sunday but remained cautious with a forecast of high winds and hot temperatures.