COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A raging Colorado wildfire that forced tens of thousands to flee destroyed an estimated 346 homes this week, making it the most destructive fire in the state’s history, officials said Thursday.
From above, the destruction becomes painfully clear: Rows and rows of houses were reduced to smoldering ashes even as some homes just feet away survived largely intact.
On one street, all but three houses had burned to their foundations, said Ryan Schneider, whose home is still standing in a neighborhood where 51 others were destroyed.
“I was real happy at first. My wife was happy,” he said. “The emotion of seeing the other homes, though, was instant sadness.”
The aerial photos showing the scope of one of the worst fires to hit the American West in decades did little to help ease the concerns of many residents who still did not know the fate of homes.
Amid the devastation in the foothills of Colorado Springs, there were hopeful signs. Flames advancing on the U.S. Air Force Academy were stopped and cooler conditions could help slow the fire.
The fire was 15 percent contained Thursday night. The cost of fighting the blaze had already reached $3.2 million.
Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said the 346 estimate could change. A fire in northern Colorado, which is still burning, destroyed 257 homes and until Thursday was the most destructive in state history.
President Barack Obama issued a disaster declaration Thursday for Colorado, releasing federal funds to help areas affected by the two destructive wildfires.