USA –-COLORADO SPRINGS. — Melted bowling balls in the front yard were among the strange sights that met C.J. Moore upon her return to her two-story home Sunday, now reduced to ashes by the worst wildfire in Colorado history.
“Which is just hysterical. You wouldn’t think bowling balls would melt,” she said by phone from the scene in her Mountain Shadows neighborhood.
Moore was one of many residents allowed to visit the most devastated of the area’s neighborhoods. Almost 350 homes burned to the ground last week in the Waldo Canyon fire, one of many still raging across the West.
A line of cars a mile long queued up at a middle school checkpoint, where police checked the identification of returning residents and handed them water bottles.
While searching for her great-grandmother’s cast-iron skillets, Moore marveled at the juxtaposition of what burned and what hadn’t. The bowling balls had been garden decorations.
“To find my mail in my mailbox, unscathed. It’s just unreal. Unreal,” she said. “Bird baths are fine. Some of the foliage is fine.”
Three neighbors’ homes were unscathed. Only concrete remained of other homes, including hers. Cars were burned to nothing but charred metal.
“Good Lord! I’ve never seen anything like this. And thank God there was nobody there. Thank God there were no people here. There would have been no hope,” Moore said.
Not far away, Bill Simmons and his wife, Debbie Byes, returned to their tri-level, passive-solar stucco home and found no damage — just some ashes in the driveway.
“The water and electric’s back on. You know, we’re good to go. We’re feeling pretty happy about it at the moment,” Simmons said by phone. “We’re feeling pretty sad for our neighbors and pretty lucky for ourselves. It’s been a real sobering experience.”
The 26-square-mile fire, one of many burning across the West, was 55% contained as of Sunday evening, according to a CNN report.
Officials 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.
Rich Harvey, incident commander for Waldo Canyon, said crews continue to make good progress. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” he said Sunday. “We still remain focused on things that could go wrong.”
About 1,500 personnel were fighting the Waldo Canyon fire, and authorities said they were confident they had built good fire lines in many areas to stop flames from spreading.
Authorities are still trying to determine the cause of the fire that broke out on June 23, and which, so far, has cost $8.8 million to battle.