Amid ruins of burned-out homes, precious keepsakes

(CBS News) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A C-130 firefighting plane went down in South Dakota Sunday night.

Three people on-board were rescued, and are being treated at an area hospital.

Firefighters in Colorado Springs, meanwhile, have gained ground on the huge wildfire that destroyed nearly 350 homes in Colorado's second-largest city.

On Sunday, thousands of residents were allowed to go back to look at the area.

One of the neighborhoods hardest hit was a subdivision called Mountain Shadows, where many homes were simply incinerated.

For many residents who went back, there was nothing left due to what's now the most destructive fire in Colorado history.

Eleven wildfires continue to burn on more than 165,000 acres across the state; some of these blazes started seven weeks ago.

One of the worst is the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs.

Wayne Selting says he "could see the fire come over the top of the ridge (by his home) ... and within a period of about six minutes, it went from the top of the ridge almost down to the neighborhood."

On Sunday, residents finally saw what was left of their neighborhood.

Victor Malone and Joanne Larraga moved there just a year ago.

"(This) was a bird feeder," Victor said, holding it up. "But, ashes to ashes..."

They had seen an aerial photo earlier in the week and knew the house was gone.

But still, "It was hard," Joanne says.

"You think about it - and it just kind of takes your breath away," Victor added. "You're like, 'Wow.' It looks as bad as it looked in the picture. Even worse."

Fourteen homes stood on their street. They're all gone now.

Joanne found a treasured gift from her mother, who passed away in 2007: a coconut grater, made of iron, that survived the heat.

"I'm just so happy we found it," she says.

Where a piano had been, there was Victor's trumpet.

"Now that's a keeper!" he exclaimed.

But the wooden grandfather clocks and the family chest from the 1840s are gone, turned to white ash, with the rest.

"You just can't believe it," Joanne says. "There are no words really that can describe it, other than it just - it gets you, it really does."

Joanne and Victor plan to rebuild, and say many neighbors want to rebuild, as well.

But they'll have to wait. The fire, although 55 percent contained, is still going, and still presents a potential danger to other neighborhoods.

Watch Anna Werner's full report in the video above.

  • Anna Werner

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