Colorado governor lifts statewide fire ban

Story highlights

  • "Mother Nature is finally giving us some relief," the governor says
  • Many counties still have local fire bans in place
  • The Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs is 98% contained

Much-needed rain and forecasts predicting cooler and wetter weather prompted Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to lift a statewide fire ban Sunday.

"Mother Nature is finally giving us some relief," Hickenlooper said in a statement. "Even though the 2012 wildfire season is far from over and still challenging, we believe conditions are such that local authorities and federal land managers ought to resume control over fire bans in their jurisdictions."

A number of Colorado counties have fire bans in place, which will remain unchanged by Hickenlooper's action, his office said.

Colorado has been plagued by several major fires recently, including the devastating Waldo Canyon blaze, which scorched more than 18,000 acres since beginning June 23 and destroyed 346 homes in Colorado Springs. The fire -- the most destructive in Colorado's history -- was 98% contained as of Sunday, officials said.

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The High Park fire, which burned more than 87,000 acres and destroyed nearly 260 homes in northern Colorado, was 100% contained, officials said.

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Two other fires, the Weber fire and the Little Sand fire, were at 90% and 40% containment, respectively, as of Sunday, the governor's office said. No new fires were being monitored or supported by the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.

The statewide fire ban, issued June 14, applied to open burning, including campfires, warming fires, charcoal grill fires, fused explosives and private use of fireworks, officials said.

More than 60 Colorado counties were forecast to move to moderate or low danger over the next week, although a few counties continue to experience high fire danger, the governor's office said. The wildfire season will continue for a few more months, and the governor will reactivate the fire ban if needed.

The U.S. Forest Service, Department of the Interior, Defense Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were providing support to Colorado and other states affected by wildfires and flash flooding, authorities said Sunday.

President Barack Obama on June 28 approved a disaster declaration for Colorado, as well as federal assistance for victims of the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires.

On Monday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will visit Colorado Springs to survey wildfire response efforts and thank those battling the blaze, authorities said.

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