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"If you’re surrounded by people who haven’t done anything, it doesn’t matter what you do," Thompson said. "It’s interesting that you can have a house in a forest and the building code doesn’t say anything about the roof design."
That’s what makes fire prevention so difficult, said Anne Walker of the Western Governors’ Association.
National Guard deployment canceled »
Colorado authorities on Friday afternoon halted plans to use Utah National Guard helicopters to fight fires there. Utah National Guard Capt. Chris Foote said the Colorado authorities did not elaborate. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert authorized and announced the deployment earlier Friday.
"Local government has ultimate authority over where homes are placed," she said. "You need to look at local ordinances and where homes are placed and what they’re made of."
El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn said the commission has tried to ensure that new developments have brush clearance and easy emergency access.
"Sometimes it’s just nature," he said. "When you have a fire like this in a semi-arid environment, there’s not a lot you can do."
Maketa said firefighters were hampered by a matted layer of pine needles and grass fuel on the forest floor — fuel called "duff." Spot fires below the trees can smolder for days and even weeks inside it, then blow up. Firefighters see dry matting, Maketa said, "and when you look 10 minutes later, it’s full of flames."
The military pitched in, manning roadblocks with Humvees, providing firefighters, plowing fire lines with bulldozers and flying two C-130 cargo planes and several helicopters to drop slurry and water. The aid came from nearby Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Buckley Air Force Base and the Colorado National Guard.
Other fires burned in Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon and California.
In Canon City, 50 miles southwest of Black Forest, the 5-square-mile Royal Gorge Fire was 20 percent contained. Royal Gorge Bridge & Park officials said that of its 52 buildings, 48 are now gone. The park’s suspension bridge 955 feet above the Arkansas River is still up, though the fire damaged some wooden planks. An aerial tram was destroyed. Park officials vowed to reopen.
A lightning-sparked fire in Rocky Mountain National Park was burning on about 300 acres, less than originally estimated.
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