Black Forest Fire now called 95 pct contained; Mandatory evacuation areas reopening block by block

BLACK FOREST, Colo. - The Black Forest Fire, the most destructive wildfire in state history, is now 95 percent contained.

The fire has burned 14,280 acres and about 2,609 people remain evacuated.

On Wednesday afternoon, several roads west of Vollmer Road were reopened to residents including Lakeview Drive, Ponderosa Road, Freeman Drive, Woodcrest Drive, Cyprus Road and Ponderosa Springs Point. Residents should access the area from the north off Hodgen Road via Herring Road or Vollmer, according to the Sheriff's Office.

However, about 22 residents in the Peregrine neighborhood will have to be escorted by police officers because their homes are near what authorities believe to be the point of origin of the fire.

"We have two scenes in there  -- we have the point of origin investigation as well we have a death investigation so those areas we need to keep maintained. And although you might not be close to those areas,  that fire is a crime scene until otherwise proven. The entire burn area is," El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said during a Wednesday morning news conference.

"We have a lot of folks looking at it, not only but from an investigation for the cause of the fire but also from a behavior standpoint so we can take this data and learn from it and apply it to keep our community safer in the future," Maketa said. "It's important not only for our community but to other communities that could suffer similar circumstances."

So far, 509 homes have burned, 28 are damaged and 3,653 remain unaffected. View a complete list of the homes lost: http://ch7ne.ws/13CR4lB

The cost of fighting the fire is now more than $8.5 million, according to Incident Commander Rich Harvey.

Two people have been killed in the fire, which broke out June 11 around 1 p.m. Marc Allen Herklotz, 52, and Robin Herklotz, 50, lived in a two-story home on nearly 3-acres of land at 6720 Jicarilla Drive in Black Forest. That property was included on the first list of homes lost to the fire.

Their bodies were found in the garage and their car doors were open. 

A neighbor of the couple told reporters that the couple didn't receive the emergency notification call to evacuate, but Maketa said that it was clear they were in the process of evacuating.

"I don't know what that neighbor would know what they did receive. We have witnesses talking to (the Herklotzs). They knew there was a fire," Maketa said. "They actually left work to go in (to the fire zone). And they made the decision to try to collect their property. So I don't know what relevance that is."

"They were clearly, obviously, getting their materials (to evacuate)," the sheriff said. "They had had phone conversations with individuals that are key witnesses for us …  I don't know if it matters. They saw the fire. They admitted they saw it. They saw it coming. I don't think we need phone calls to tell us when it's time to go. We can all look up and see orange and fire and know it's time to leave."

-- Investigation into fire continues --

The investigation into the cause of the fire continues.

Maketa said the investigation is currently focused on a 40-foot by 40-foot area.

"We are zeroing in on the point of origin," Maketa said. "It's a very slow, methodical process."

Investigators believe it was human-caused.

Maketa said the progress of the fire is going so well that every couple of hours, there will be updates and they'll be moving roadblocks and loosening up control in that area until the mandatory evacuation can be lifted.

Crews hope to have the Black Forest Fire fully under control by Thursday.

El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn said they are working on setting up a planning committee made up of citizens and key interest groups to oversee the rebuilding and long-term planning.

"We will restore this community. We will rebuild, and we're going to be moving forward. We're going to come back stronger," Glenn said.

See the map of the containment around the area: http://ch7ne.ws/1279HtV


View Black Forest Fire Evacuation Map in a larger map

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