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Firefighters In Colorado Gaining The Upper Hand On Blazes

Above: A U.S. Army helicopter releases water onto the Black Forest fire outside Colorado Springs, Colo., earlier this week.

Firefighters near Colorado Springs say that a surprise rainstorm and cooler weather have rallied their efforts to push back devastating wildfires that have destroyed at least 473 homes in recent days. Two people have been killed.

Authorities say that some evacuations of residents in the Black Forest, Colo., area have been lifted and that the largest of the fires is about one-third contained.

On Friday, several thousand people were allowed back into their homes, but an estimated 30,000 are still being told to stay away.

NPR's Kirk Siegler, reporting from Colorado Springs, says Friday was "easily the best day yet for firefighters."

Bob Harvey, chief of the local Black Forest Fire Department, took a moment on Friday to praise the efforts of his firefighters.

"First of all, I want to apologize to all of those people that lost homes, may have lost family members, may have lost their pets," he said, adding that despite everything fire crews did in the initial attack, the fires "had us for lunch."

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper praised some homeowners who had cleared brush and trees from around their property in recent months. He says that helped in some areas, but in others, even that didn't matter.

"This is the hand of God, and I think at a certain point, we can be prepared, do everything we can in preparation, but we've also got to acknowledge there are some things we can't control," he said.

President Obama spoke with Hickenlooper on Friday, expressing his condolences to families who lost loved ones and promised and reinforced his commitment of federal aid.

The cause of this week's deadly blaze is still under investigation.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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