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Colorado wildfires: Waldo Canyon blaze almost half contained, officials say

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
The Lookout

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President Obama talks with firefighters as he tours a Colorado neighborhood devastated by wildfires, June 29, 2012. …

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The worst wildfire in Colorado history is now almost half contained, state officials said Sunday, as cooler temperatures, higher humidity and some rain the day before helped firefighters battle the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs.

"We got clouds, we got overcast and it actually started raining," Jerri Marr, a national forest supervisor, told Bloomberg.com. "As a result of the cloud cover, our crews were able to work really hard. They were able to make really good strides."

However, officials told CNN that conditions on Sunday were expected to be "the worst since Tuesday, when the fire exploded."

The blaze--which has killed two, destroyed at least 347 homes and forced 34,000 people to evacuate--is now 45 percent contained, a fire commander said late Saturday. The fire, which started on June 23, has consumed nearly 29 square miles--roughly the size of Manhattan.

[Slideshow: Western wildfires]

The cause of the Waldo Canyon fire, one of 11 currently burning in the state, remains under investigation. According to the Denver Post, fire crews are fighting it one house at a time.

"It is the closest thing to war without getting shot," Colorado Springs Fire Lt. Jeff Loveless told the paper. More than 1,300 firefighters and 120 national guard troops are battling the blaze in Colorado Springs.

Some of those evacuated were allowed to return to their homes--or what's left of them--on Sunday.

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"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," the Associated Press reported.

More than 10,000 residents remain under mandatory evacuation orders, Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey said. There have been 24 reported burglaries of vacated homes, Carey said.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach is offering bus tours for about 4,000 residents of neighborhoods destroyed by the fire. "You'll be able to look at your property," an assistant to the city's mayor told CNN. "You're not going to be able to get out and walk around the property because we're still in an active fire situation."

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Highway 24, which had been closed due to the blaze, will be open to residents for several hours, officials said.

President Barack Obama toured the devastation on Friday, thanking firefighters for their bravery.

"We don't expect people to stand on the beach to stop a hurricane," Scott Campbell, El Paso County fire management officer, told the Post. "Every other natural disaster we have the good sense to get out of the way."

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