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Memories 'just burned' in blaze

Jun 29, 2012 - By P. Solomon Banda, The Associated Press

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- After waiting for two days, Rebekah and Byron Largent learned from lists distributed by authorities that their home was among the hundreds that burned to the ground in the most destructive wildfire ever to rage across Colorado.

It was especially hurtful as their house was destroyed on their daughter Emma's first birthday.

"Our minds just started sifting through all the memories of that house that we lost that can't be replaced," Rebekah Largent said Thursday night. She remembered her wedding dress, a grandmother's china, the rocking chair where the couple would sit with Emma.

"Our little girl, our 1-year-old daughter, that's the house that she's lived in the longest. It's just really hard to have lost a lot of the memories connected to that, you know? They just burned," she said.

Officials said the Waldo Canyon fire that forced tens of thousands to flee this city 60 miles south of Denver destroyed an estimated 346 homes and left at least one person dead.

Police Chief Pete Carey said the remains of one person were found in a home where two people had been reported missing. Neither the victim nor the missing person has been identified.

Carey said police are still trying to track down the whereabouts of "less than 10" people who may be unaccounted for.

President Barack Obama was to tour fire-stricken areas Friday after issuing a disaster declaration for Colorado, releasing federal funds to help.

Rich Harvey, the incident commander in charge of the massive firefighting effort, said the fire was held at bay overnight, with no growth of the perimeter and no more houses lost.

The fire was 15 percent contained Friday morning.

Jerri Marr, supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel national forests where the blaze started, said favorable weather was a boon to firefighters Thursday.

"Yesterday we had great weather," she said. "Looks like we're going to have that same weather today."

From above Colorado Springs, the destruction was painfully clear: Rows and rows of houses were reduced to smoldering ashes even as some homes just feet away survived largely intact.

When he first saw the aerial photos of the homes burned in his neighborhood, Ryan Schneider recognized immediately that his house had been spared.

But relief quickly turned to sadness for his many friends and neighbors who hadn't been so lucky.

"I mean, there's a lifetime of things that people collect in these homes, and they've lost it all," said Schneider, vice president of the 1,700-home community association for the Mountain Shadows neighborhood.

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