Hundreds of firefighters battled lashing winds on Thursday as they raced to halt the spread of a ferocious wildfire that state officials said has destroyed more homes than any other in Colorado’s history.
As thousands of residents were forced to evacuate under the smoked-stained skies, officials delivered a litany of grim news about the fire, which erupted Tuesday afternoon in the wooded community of Black Forest, north of Colorado Springs.
Officials reported that two bodies had been found in a garage, where they had apparently been packing up a car to flee the area. They said that 360 homes had been reduced to ash and cinder. About 38,000 people fled their homes in subdivisions and shaded hillsides. Plumes of smoke billowed from Black Forest, and officials said the fire was about 5 percent contained.
No cause for the fire has been determined.
As hundreds of firefighters raced to save homes and keep the 15,700-acre fire from leaping over highways, tanker planes and helicopters chirred through the sky like dragonflies, dropping water and retardant. But the weather thwarted fire crews at every turn. Afternoon thunderstorms brought lightning but little rain. Lashing winds lofted flames into the Ponderosa pines and steered the blaze in unpredictable directions.
“All we can do is fight,” Gov. John W. Hickenlooper said after visiting residents who had taken shelter in a high school.