Colorado wildfire claims third fatality, blaze nearly contained

Reuters News
|
Posted: Mar 31, 2012 10:03 PM
Colorado wildfire claims third fatality, blaze nearly contained

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Remains believed to be those of a missing woman were found on Saturday at her home within a nearly-contained wildfire zone west of Denver, authorities said, the third death resulting from the blaze that was ignited by a controlled burn gone awry.

While identification is still pending, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said crews were suspending the search for Ann Appel, who was unaccounted for since the fire erupted on Monday.

"Possible human artifacts have been located within the Appel home," the sheriff's office said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, the bodies of Samuel Lucas, 77, and his wife Linda Lucas, 76, were found near their home within the fire zone.

In addition to the three fatalities, the Lower North Fork Fire, which burned through tinder-dry pine trees and grasses, has scorched 4,140 acres, destroyed 27 homes, and an unknown number of outbuildings.

The blaze, which has burned stubbornly for six days in the rugged foothills 20 miles west of Denver, is now 90 percent contained, and most evacuation orders have been lifted, fire officials said on Saturday.

The deadly fire was ignited when windblown embers from a controlled burn conducted by the Colorado State Forest Service jumped containment lines on Monday, and flames quickly spread through the narrow canyons in the area.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper this week ordered a suspension of controlled burns on all state-owned land pending an investigation into why the fire got away from crews.

The U.S. Forest Service likewise ordered a temporary ban on prescribed burns on federal land within Colorado due to the state's dry conditions.

(Editing by Mary Slosson and Greg McCune)