Inside battle vs. vicious Colorado Springs blaze

(CBS News) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- There was new fire danger in the bone-dry West Wednesday, even as C-130 tanker planes returned to the sky after being grounded because of a fatal crash.

A brush fire in Palmdale, California, north of Los Angeles, was spreading across a rural area. Officials said the fire was moving away from homes.

Several fires were still burning in Colorado, but the deadly Waldo Canyon blaze was mostly contained Wednesday.

The fire was a frightening battle between nature and man.

Three people have been killed and more than 600 homes have been destroyed in Colorado since the first fire started on June 9.

The fire in and around Colorado Springs is being called the most destructive fire in the state's history, destroying some 350 homes.

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Steve Schopper, of the Colorado Springs Fire Department, pointed to one place where, he said, almost 200 more homes would have been engulfed if the blaze hadn't been stopped.

Firefighters on the ground used shovels, chainsaws and even a garden hose to fight the flames.

One weapon in the arsenal of modern firefighting was temporarily unavailable as the nation's fleet of C-130 tanker planes was grounded for a day after a deadly crash in South Dakota.

But at ground level, the fight to save homes still goes on, block-by-block.

Schopper says he "felt helpless to a force of nature, and almost an act of God that was coming down (a) hill and seeing all this fire, seeing it jump, rounding the corner and seeing 15 houses all on fire, and that it (was) jumping and leapfrogging from house-to-house-to-house.

The National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates wildfire fighting efforts around the country, says that 45 large fires are still burning around the nation.

To see Rick Sallinger's report, click on the video in the player above.