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Firefighters control Colorado blazes

Updated:
PINE JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — The house, the flower garden and the barn are gone and the only evidence of the log deck is a line of nails in the ashes. Steve and Patsy Kruzek have nothing but memories left of their dream home for 18 years.

``We lost everything we own, but that's OK because everyone got out,'' Mrs. Kruzek said Monday. ``Everything is replaceable except a few pictures.''

The Kruzeks' home in Pine Valley Estates was one of the first hit by the forest fire that began June 12. Fifty-one homes were destroyed in what became known as the Hi Meadow blaze in the foothills 35 miles southwest of Denver.

The blaze, one of two that raged in Colorado over the past week, burned 10,800 acres. It was 95 percent contained late Monday and authorities hoped to have it completely corralled by Tuesday evening.

There was better news 90 miles away, east of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Bobcat Gulch fire, which destroyed 22 structures and burned 10,600 acres, was 100 percent contained.

``Everybody's feeling pretty good about the progress we made today and over the last three days,'' said Gina Owens, a fire information officer. ``It's due to the weather and the hard work of the firefighters out here.''

Residents let the firefighters know how much their efforts were appreciated.

``Thank you men and ladies for saving our dreams,'' said one sign posted near the fire area. ``Way to go Hotshots,'' said another.

Authorities have identified a man suspected of starting the Bobcat fire as Kenneth Winchester, 33, and said he has refused to talk to sheriff's deputies.

Officials initially thought the Hi Meadow fire was caused by lightning, but this weekend said no signs of lightning were found where it started. Its cause was being investigated.

Insurance claims from the fires were expected to climb above $15 million, insurance officials said.

``This is definitely going to be one of our most costly wildfires in the history of Colorado,'' said Carol Walker, executive director of the Western Insurance Information Service. ``What's frightening is it's just the beginning of the wildfire season. It's going to be a bad year.''

The fire season across the country is already the worst since 1996, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho. More than 46,000 fires have burned 1.26 million acres

Plumes of smoke rose Monday from Colorado mountains scarred by patches of blackened pine trees and brown heat-stressed trees.

``You know, right now it looks really bad, but in time it will look so much better,'' said Kevin Riordan, a fire spokesman. ``This is the worst it will be.''

That was little comfort to Mrs. Kruzek, standing outside the stone basement of what had been her three-story home. ``This place may be beautiful again, but not in my lifetime,'' she said.

The fire season across the country is already the worst since 1996, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho. More than 46,000 fires have burned 1.26 million acres

Plumes of smoke rose Monday from Colorado mountains scarred by patches of blackened pine trees and brown heat-stressed trees.

``You know, right now it looks really bad, but in time it will look so much better,'' said Kevin Riordan, a fire spokesman. ``This is the worst it will be.''

That was little comfort to Mrs. Kruzek, standing outside the stone basement of what had been her three-story home. ``This place may be beautiful again, but not in my lifetime,'' she said.

For the Kruzeks, it was much too early to talk about whether to rebuild on their a 35-acre plot.

``I'll think I'll move to downtown Denver by all the buffets,'' Mrs. Kruzek ventured, as her husband talked with their insurance agent. ``We're not at all in a hurry because we've got too many things to remember.''




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