Colorado's Black forest fire considered a crime scene as two die

June 17, 2013 at 3:10 PM
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COLORADO SPRINGS, June 17 (UPI) -- Colorado's Black Forest fire was declared 75 percent contained Monday and investigators referred to the deaths of two people as homicides.

"Fire behavior was reduced to creeping and smoldering due to improved weather conditions," Incident commander Rich Harvey said at a news briefing Monday. "Some resources are being released and made available for response for other incidents as needed."

Harvey also said the fire's containment figure was increased from 65 to 75 percent.

The fire, north of Colorado Springs, has burned nearly 15,000 acres, destroyed 483 homes and taken the lives of two people since it began Tuesday.

Authorities said the two deaths were being investigated as homicides and the fire considered a crime scene, The Denver Post reported Monday.

"We have a crime scene in there. We have fire in there. We have downed power lines in there. We have trees falling each time there is a gust of wind," El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said.

Authorities have said it appears the two victims were preparing to evacuate when they were overcome.

"This is a crime scene until proven otherwise," Maketa said. "I won't compromise that by letting people in too soon."

Maketa said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the state police were in on the investigation, CNN reported Monday.

Investigators had not yet determined what started the fire but Maketa has said it likely was caused by humans, the Post said.

Elsewhere in Colorado, firefighters announced the Royal Gorge Fire, southwest of Colorado Springs, was 100 percent contained Sunday night.

The fire scorched more than 3,200 acres and at least 20 buildings, Gov. John Hickenlooper's office said.

Hickenlooper declared a disaster emergency in Rocky Mountain National Park, northwest of Denver, because of the Big Meadows Fire, which had burned hundreds of acres.

In the western part of the state, the Ward Gulch Fire was burning, CNN reported. No structures were reported destroyed.

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