Firefighters gain upper hand in Colorado, see long wildfire seasonA helicopter drops fire retardant onto the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, Colorado July 2, 2012. Residents began returning to charred areas of Colorado Springs on Sunday after the most destructive wildfire
DENVER (Reuters) - Firefighters grappling with the two most destructive wildfires on record in Colorado reported progress on Monday, but were steeling themselves for a long season in what has already been a dangerously active fire year in the western United States.
The fires, which left a haze of smoke over the state's urban corridors, have displaced tens of thousands of people and left vast swathes of forest a blackened wasteland in addition to charring more than 600 homes.
"I don't think we've seen a fire season like this in the history of Colorado," Governor John Hickenlooper said last week after surveying the destruction wrought by the Waldo Canyon Fire west of Colorado Springs.
The wind-driven Waldo, which is blamed for two deaths and the destruction of 346 homes, was now 70 percent contained, fire officials said.
"We're getting our licks in," incident commander Rich Harvey said of the fight to contain the 17,920-acreblaze burning mostly in the Pike National Forest.
The High Park Fire burning in steep terrain west of Fort Collins, is now 100 percent contained but will likely smolder until autumn snows return to the Rocky Mountains, fire managers said.
The lightning-sparked blaze has blackened 87,284 acres of private land and portions of the Roosevelt National Forest, consumed 259 homes, and is blamed for the death of a 62-year-old grandmother inside her mountain cabin.