Fri June 29, 2012 4:49pm
A RAGING wildfire that forced tens of thousands to flee has left at least one person dead and destroyed an estimated 346 homes this week, making it the most destructive fire in the state's history, officials say.
Police Chief Pete Carey said late on Thursday the remains of one person were found in a home where two people had been reported missing.
From above, the fire's destruction was painfully clear: Rows and rows of houses were reduced to smoldering ashes even as some homes just metres away survived largely intact.
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 US Air Force Academy were stopped and cooler conditions could help slow the fire.
The fire was 15 per cent contained Thursday night.
Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said the estimate of 346 homes could change. A fire in northern Colorado, which was still burning, destroyed 257 homes and until Thursday was the most destructive in state history.
For now, Bach said, the news of the destruction would make it very difficult for affected residents in the city about 100 kilometres south of Denver.
"This community is going to surround them with love and encouragement," Bach said.
More than 30,000 people frantically packed up belongings Tuesday night as the flames swept through their neighbourhoods.
Community officials were planning to begin the process of notifying residents Thursday that their homes were destroyed. For many residents, the official notification was a formality.
Residents recognised their streets on aerial pictures and carefully scrutinised the images to determine the damage. Photos and video from The Associated Press and The Denver Post showed widespread damage.
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