(USA TODAY/KUSA) - One person has been found dead, another is missing and nearly 350 homes have been destroyed by a raging U.S. wildfire that has forced tens of thousands to flee this week.
President Barack Obama on Friday will tour the scene of the most destructive fire in Colorado history.
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Ever-changing winds have caused the fire to push into the city limits of Colorado Springs, frustrating firefighters and roaring along the edge of the U.S. Air Force Academy. It was still too dangerous for officials to get close to determine the cause of the fire or get a complete count of burnt homes.
Police Chief Pete Carey said late Thursday the remains of one person were found in a home where two people had been reported missing.
The fire is one of the worst in the U.S. West in decades. From above, the destruction was clear. Rows and rows of houses were reduced to smoldering ashes, even as some just feet (meters) away survived largely intact.
"Our minds just started sifting through all the memories of that house that we lost that can't be replaced," resident Rebekah Largent said. She remembered her wedding dress, a grandmother's china, the rocking chair where she and her husband would sit with their daughter Emma, who turned 1 the day their home burned.
The city is home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the Air Force Space Command, which operates military satellites. They were not threatened.
Amid the devastation, there were hopeful signs. Flames advancing on the U.S. Air Force Academy were stopped, and cooler conditions Friday could help slow the fire. The academy was letting residents return Friday morning, and officials said normal operations would resume.
The fire was 15 percent contained Thursday night. The cost of fighting the blaze had already reached $3.2 million.
Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said the estimate of 346 destroyed homes could change. Another fire in northern Colorado had destroyed 257 homes.
More than 30,000 people in Colorado Springs frantically packed up belongings Tuesday night as the flames swept through their neighborhoods.
Obama declared a major disaster late Thursday, making federal funding available.
Northwest of Fort Collins, firefighters said they were getting ahead of the 16-square-mile High Park fire that killed a woman and destroyed at least 257 homes after being sparked by lighting June 9. The fire was 75% contained and could be under control early next week, said Jim Toomey of the Larimer County sheriff's office.
Near Boulder, containment of the Flagstaff wildfire west of the city grew to 30%. The fire burned 300 acres, but 26 families that were evacuated Tuesday when the fire began were allowed back Thursday evening.
The fire was "one ridge away from impacting the city," said Dan Rowland, a spokesman for the Flagstaff wildfire management team. "That would have been a game-changer."
"We are on heavy alert going forward," he said. "We're watching it every day."