Living in Colo. wildland makes firefighting hard

(CBS News) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The high temperatures and tinderbox conditions are all but guaranteeing that progress in fighting the western wildfires will be spotty at best. We begin with this report from Colorado's Waldo Canyon fire, which began a week ago Saturday.

If the worst seems over here, this state is braced for more trouble somewhere else.

"It super dry all over," said Jerry Mard of the U.S. Forest Service. "It's just not on our force, it's up and down the front range throughout Colorado. We are still in extreme drought conditions."

This already brutal fire season is raising questions about the trend of people making a home in mountainous wildland areas. In Colorado Saturday, it's estimated that 1 in 4 houses is in a wildland area. That's more than a million people, a fifth of the state's population. And it makes a tough job for firefighters that much harder.

"When you have homes all intermixed in there," said Greg Heule, a retired Colorado Springs firefighter, "then your concentration is on those homes [and it] takes a lot more resources to do it. And then the wildland fire continues while you're concentrating on the homes that are in the wildland area."

Steve Holsenback and Carla DeVaughn were evacuated a week ago. They kept an eye on their house from a path and thought their house in the mountains above the city was gone after a picture showed fire behind their house. But it survived.

On Saturday, they were allowed in but warned to be ready for evacuation on 10 minutes notice. Still, they love living in nating.

"I'm sitting there eating breakfast and watching chipmunks and foxes sitting out there on the birdfeeders, eating like I'm eating," said Carla.

And facing this fire is not going to chase them away.

"I think I'll have less fear now that I have seen what the firefighters can do, how they can handle a situation like this," said Carla.

Despite all that bad weather elsewhere, some good weather here: lower temperatures, no big wind gust. Some good news announced just moments ago: this fire now is 45 percent contained.

Two-thirds of Colo. wildfire evacuees back home

  • Barry Petersen

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