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Colorado Waldo Canyon fire battle gains ground
The most destructive wildfire in the US state of Colorado's history is now 70% contained, officials say.
The announcement came after residents visited their neighbourhoods to survey damage. Some 32,000 people were forced to leave the city of Colorado Springs.
Separately, at least one of six crew members has died as a US military cargo plane crashed while battling a fire in South Dakota. Others are feared dead.
Wildfires are raging across a huge area in western US states.
Officials in Colorado said 17,920 acres (7,251 ha) of land and 346 homes had been burned by Colorado's Waldo Canyon fire. Two people have been killed and the blaze spread last week across the limits of the state's second largest city.
Thunderstorms and recent cloudy weather have helped more than 1,500 firefighters battle the blaze, officials say. But seven air tankers were grounded indefinitely in the wake of the South Dakota crash.
It is estimated the Colorado wildfire will be 100% contained by 11 July.
In Colorado Springs, some residents were allowed to return to their homes temporarily on Sunday to survey the damage in their neighbourhoods.
Officials say it could still take four to six weeks before they can fully return to the Mountain Shadows and Flying W areas because of utility and infrastructure damage.
Renee Sidman, a resident of Mountain Shadows, told the Colorado Springs Gazette of the guilt she felt when she discovered her home was still standing.
"I was just sobbing uncontrollably, even though my house was perfect," she said, adding that the house next door had been reduced to ash and soot.
Another resident, CJ Moore, told the Associated press that she knew from aerial photos that her home had not survived, but found stainless steel kitchenware and a vase lamp in the rubble.
"To find my mail in my mailbox, unscathed. It's just unreal. Unreal," she said.
The victim in the South Dakota plane crash was named as Lt Col Paul Mikeal, a veteran pilot who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a married father of two.
The C-130 crashed after dropping fire retardant in an effort to contain a wildfire.
Three others in the six-person crew were taken to hospital, officials said.
The military has not confirmed any further deaths, but spokesman Lt Col Robert Carver said: "Obviously there were casualties. We are also thankful there were survivors."
President Barack Obama said the air crews fighting the wildfires "repeatedly confront dangerous conditions in an effort to give firefighters on the ground a chance to contain these wildfires.
"Americans across the country share my concern for the well-being of the surviving members of the crew and my deep condolences to the families of those who lost their lives."
In other wildfires burning in western US states:
- Utah's largest wildfire has scorched more than 96,000 acres but firefighters say it does not appear to be burning out. One summer home has been destroyed and the fire is 48% contained
- A Montana wildfire that has burned 169,600 acres jumped a motorway overnight, prompting further evacuation notices. There are 10 large wildfires burning in the state
- Evacuations have been ordered about 30 miles (48km) south of the city of Laramie, Wyoming, where a wildfire was said to be growing quickly.
Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2012 BBC
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