‘Great day’ as evacuations lifted; fight continues against deadly Colorado fire

Updated 9:08 PM EDT, Sun July 1, 2012

Story highlights

NEW: The fire, which has burned 17,600 acres, is now 55% contained

Many ordered to evacuate are being allowed to return home, officials say

Some are allowed to go back temporarily to see their charred homes

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(CNN) —  

For over a week, officials related grim news on top of grim news about the fast-moving wildfire ravaging Colorado Springs, Colorado – two dead, 346 homes lost, 32,000 forced evacuations, all as crews fought gamely in the face of whipping winds and horrific heat.

Until Sunday, that is.

“We’ve had a great day,” city official Steve Cox said in an afternoon press conference. “We’re going to open up many areas back to the citizens.”

Fire authorities reported Sunday evening that the blaze, which so far burned over 17,600 acres – close to 27 square miles – was 55% contained. That represented a significant improvement from even a few hours earlier, when the fire was 45% contained.

This progress is consistent with officials’ optimistic comments on Sunday, as they chronicled the latest in the fight to corral the deadly and still dangerous fire.

The most positive such development was the decision was to let thousands of people who had been ordered to evacuate back into their homes, beginning at 8 p.m. MT (10 p.m. ET) Sunday.

Some 3,000 still can’t get back in, though Colorado Springs emergency management director Brett Waters noted that figure is 10% of the tally at the fire’s peak.