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Colorado fire victim films her own evacuation

By Chelsea J. Carter and Moni Basu, CNN
updated 9:36 PM EDT, Sat June 30, 2012
A firefighter works a burnout operation on the north flank of the Fontenelle Fire outside Big Piney, Wyoming, on Wednesday, July 4. More than 800 firefighters are working 15-hour shifts battling the fire that has exceeded 56,000 acres, according to fire information services. A firefighter works a burnout operation on the north flank of the Fontenelle Fire outside Big Piney, Wyoming, on Wednesday, July 4. More than 800 firefighters are working 15-hour shifts battling the fire that has exceeded 56,000 acres, according to fire information services.
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Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
Wildfires devastate Western states
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The High Park Fire, which scorched 87,284 acres, is 100% contained
  • Waldo Canyon Fire is 45% percent contained
  • The fire has destroyed nearly 350 homes and damaged at least two dozen more, officials say
  • Authorities are allowing some evacuees to return home

Are wildfires blazing near you? Share photos and videos with iReport, but please stay safe.

(CNN) -- Nicole Frye watered the wooden roof of the house where she'd lived for 18 years. Then she got in her car and captured her own evacuation with a video camera.

Watch Frye's evacuation

All around her, the sky glowed orange from the towering flames that had roared down the mountain and into western subdivisions of Colorado Springs.

"Oh my God," she sobbed. "We gotta get out of here."

Breathtaking Colorado wildfire pictures
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U.S. Air Force fighting fires

She knew her neighborhood would never be the same.

"So I wanted to make sure I had at least a memory of something that was remaining," she said.

Reaction: Monster fire terrorizes a Colorado city

She wanted a memory, too, of the Waldo Canyon Fire which, a week after igniting, has consumed nearly 350 homes, damaged two dozen more and killed two people.

Firefighters, aided by helicopters, air tankers and military planes dropping water and retardant, fought Saturday to contain the inferno, still threatening 20,000 homes and 160 businesses.

About 120 Colorado National Guard troops were deploying to assist local law enforcement officers, said Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey.

Already, the Waldo Canyon Fire has scorched more than 17,000 acres -- close to 27 square miles -- and brought fear, anxiety and grief to Colorado Springs, the state's second-largest city that was, until a few days ago, happily situated in the valley below picturesque Pikes Peak.

It was 45% contained Saturday, said incident commander Rich Harvey.

In responses to Colorado Springs fire, a distinctly evangelical tone

Steve Cox, assistant to the Colorado Springs mayor, said the city remains hopeful.

"But it is a long process," he told CNN affiliate KKTV. "It's going to take us a long time to recover from this."

The fire forced the evacuation of more than 36,000 people earlier this week. Many have since been allowed to return, and authorities are no longer keeping track of how many people are still evacuated, said Anne Rys-sikora, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.

Thousands are still waiting for word when they would be able to go home.

Others, like Frye, will have to stay with friends, family or in hotel rooms. She learned her house was gone. She has not returned yet but seen the devastation in aerial photographs.

The city has organized bus tours for about 4,000 people whose neighborhoods were charred.

"You'll be able to look at your property," Cox said. "You're not going to be able to get out and walk around the property because we're still in an active fire situation."

Barry Boulier was among those evacuated when 65 mph winds on Tuesday whipped the blaze into a firestorm that spewed ash and smoke "like a scene out of the movie 'Dante's Peak.' "

Obama tours site of deadly fire in Colorado

It was so thick, that he couldn't see or breathe, he said on CNN iReport.

"It happened so fast -- our only thought was leave NOW."

Boulier and his wife have been staying with family since they fled, though they have since learned their home was spared after firefighters stopped its advance in their backyard.

His neighbors, though, are not so lucky. Most of their houses, he said, have been burned.

"I'm kind of dreading returning," he said.

iReporters share their harrowing views of the raging wildfires

President Barack Obama declared Colorado a disaster area to allow federal dollars to help fight the Waldo Canyon Fire as well the High Park Fire, which burned 87,284 acres and destroyed nearly 260 homes in northern Colorado since it began on June 9.

As of Saturday evening, that fire is 100% contained and all evacuation orders have been lifted. Firefighters will continue mopping up hotspots along the perimeter of the fire, which has cost more than $38 million to date.

Almost half of the acreage burned by the High Park Fire is on U.S. Forest Service land.

"We have been putting everything we have into trying to deal with what is one of the worst fires we've seen here in Colorado," said Obama, who toured Colorado Springs on Friday to get a first-hand look at the devastation.

"We've still got a lot more work to do."

New app tracks Colorado wildfires

The U.S. Forest Service has warned it could be mid-July before the Waldo Canyon Fire is fully under control.

The wildfire is one of 11 active fires in Colorado. Other Western states -- including Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah -- also are battling wildfires, which is straining firefighting resources.

The effort to tame the flames in Colorado got a boost Friday from the military, which is deploying eight of the U.S. Forest Service's Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems aboard C-130 aircraft. The systems will drop retardant on the Waldo Canyon Fire as well as other wildfires still burning in Colorado.

A battalion of U.S. Army troops from Fort Carson, Colorado, also began training Friday to fight wildfires.

More than 500 troops are undergoing three days of training, according to Lt. Col. Steven Wollman, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division headquartered at the base just south of Colorado Springs.

A decision has not been made whether to send the troops into the Waldo Canyon Fire.

Help for wildfire evacuees and first responders

CNN's Greg Morrison and Dana Ford contributed to this report.

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