Colorado wildfires winding down, but extent of devastation starting to hit home

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Carol Lyn Lucas found out her home of 22 years had burned in the Colorado wildfires when she saw a picture of the area in the Denver Post.
CBS

(CBS News) This may be the turning point in the weeklong battle against a massive wildfire in Colorado. Firefighters say they've fought it to a standstill on the edges of Colorado Springs.

But, the fire has taken a heavy toll already. Two people have been found dead, 346 homes have been destroyed and more than 30,000 people have evacuated.

President Obama visited the disaster area Friday afternoon and called the devastation "enormous." He ordered the military to help fight the blaze.

The air battle got reinforcements. Four more military C-130s equipped to drop 21 tons of fire retardant per drop were added to 19 air tankers already working in Colorado and on fires elsewhere in the West. The ground war will soon get help from 145 combat engineers based in Colorado Springs. They are now getting three days of firefighting training to join 11,000 firefighters already on the line.

When the 100-foot high flames swept down the hills Tuesday and into the neighborhoods, firefighter Chris Villegas was in the thick of it. He told CBS News it was so intense he had to retreat twice and pull out. There was no time to save homes.

"There's nothing we could do. (We) couldn't see 10 feet in front of us -- just solid orange sky," he said.

Aerials photos in today's Denver Post show what the fire left behind from what had been one of this city's nicest neighborhoods.

Carol Lyn Lucas took a video just before he family fled the fire and didn't know her home was gone until she saw a picture of debris.

"It was just total devastation," she said. "When you've had a home that you created, you built as your family nest, it's like a death."

She took videos of the house before the fire -- of family antiques and mementos -- and now is haunted by losing her home of 22 years where she raised a family of three boys.

"Every night when I go to bed now and get into bed, I go room to room, and I think about what I left, and I think, 'Why didn't I take that? Why didn't I grab that?' My grandmother's mirror or I think about things that I loved," Lucas said. "You second guess yourself, and then you say, 'Stop, stop: These are the only things, and people matter most of all."

Today, she is somewhere between the shock of what she has lost and what is ahead.

"You're almost in survival mode for us," she said. "And then you started thinking about where will we have Christmas? What are we going to do?"

If there's one good thing, Lucas said that it's that they all lived.

"We lived," she said. "We lived, and we will live on."

Below, watch President Obama's comments after visiting the area affected by the Colorado wildfire: