by Pam Zubeck
Sheriff Terry Maketa said at a noon news briefing that he would allow re-entry to the Black Forest Fire burn area to 1,365 more people today. But about 2,600 people remain under mandatory evacuation as fire crews continue to snuff hot spots.
Fire Incident Commander Rich Harvey upped containment of the fire from 75 percent to 85 percent and said his team is starting to discuss demobilizing.
The fire has cost $7 million so far, Harvey said. Gov. John Hickenlooper allocated about $5 million on the fire's first day, and it's unclear whether he's added to that amount in light of the cost surpassing the original allotment. The fire isn't on federal land, so the state must pick up the tab, including the cost of Harvey's U.S. Forest Service Type 1 Team.
Maketa put the number of homes destroyed at 502 but predicted that would increase today as the El Paso County Assessor's Office advances its efforts to verify damaged homes.
Among those who will be allowed to re-enter today are residents of the Cathedral Pines area, among the most upscale of homes in Black Forest. That is to take place at 2 p.m., Maketa said.
As for areas along the most heavily damaged corridor of Shoup Road, residents will be allowed to visit their properties for three hours in shifts that will begin at 4 p.m., Maketa said.
Full containment of the fire is predicted for Thursday. For information, go to elpasoco.com.