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US fire contained

16 June 2013, 10:00

Colorado Springs - Crews gained the upper hand on the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history on Saturday, containing more than half the blaze that burned down nearly 500 homes and killed two people.

Officials prepared to lift mandatory evacuation orders for hundreds of residents.

Incident commander Rich Harvey said at an evening news conference that containment of the Black Forest Fire was at 55%, up from 45% percent earlier on Saturday. So far, the fire has cost more than $3.5 million to fight.

Most mandatory evacuation orders had been lifted, as the fire zone remained at about 65 square kilometres. But hundreds of people remained displaced.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said some residents along the north and west fronts of the initial evacuation zone were being allowed to return to their neighbourhoods at 20:00 after authorities downgraded evacuation orders from mandatory to pre-evacuation status in specific areas.

The announcement that crews had made significant advances on the blaze and taken control of it came the same day authorities were able to gain a clearer picture of the grim landscape it left behind after exploding Tuesday outside Colorado Springs.

Maketa cited deputies in saying that some areas in the fire's path had been described as looking "like a nuclear bomb went off," making it difficult to assess the damage before Saturday.

It's unclear what caused the fire, which sparked amid record-high temperatures and tinder-dry conditions, but officials believed it was human-caused.

- AP

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