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Firefighters gain on Waldo fire

Massive fire that killed two and destroyed 250 homes will not be out for weeks

DENVER (UPI) | July 3, 2012

Colorado's Waldo Canyon wildfire will not be completely extinguished until mid-July, fire officials said Tuesday.

At a briefing, officials in Colorado Springs said residents of one area would be able to return to their homes by 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported. But the massive wildfire remains only 70 percent contained after spreading to nearly 18,000 acres.

The fire has destroyed 250 homes and killed at least two people. Chad Olson, a fire official, said it remains uncontained on the northern side, and fire crews can expect to be dealing with it until the middle of July.

The National Interagency Coordination Center said four members of the North Carolina National Guard were killed and two injured when a C-130 tanker crashed Sunday night in the Black Hills in South Dakota, where it was releasing retardant on the White Draw Fire, CNN reported. The military temporarily suspended firefighting after the crash.

"We all need to make sure our crews and planes will be ready to re-engage in the mission safely," said Col. Jerry Champlin, commander of the 153rd Air Expeditionary Group.

The west, from Arizona to South Dakota, has been hit hard by wildfires this year, fueled by hot dry weather.

In Arizona, the largest fire, the Grapevine, in Coronado National Forest doubled to 14,000 acres Monday, the Arizona Republic reported.

Several others were burning in national forests, although they did not menace populated areas.

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