BOULDER, Colo. – As thousands of people waited to learn if their homes survived a raging Colorado wildfire, Dan Hackett hiked a second time behind roadblocks to make sure his house near Boulder was still standing.
Hackett, who lives in the mountain community of Gold Hill, said he watched his neighbor's home burn.
"The house 200 feet from my house is gone," Hackett said Wednesday after hiking two miles to learn his home was still standing. Others were expected to be able to check on their property Thursday when evacuation orders were set to be lifted in four neighborhoods in the foothills west of Boulder. News that some people will get to go home four days after the blaze erupted drew applause from the crowd of about 600 at a public meeting Wednesday night.
The wait will be longer for many of the 3,500 evacuated from about 1,000 homes. At least 135 of those homes have been destroyed, making the blaze one of the most destructive in Colorado's history.
That dire assessment came Wednesday, the same day firefighters were able to contain about 10 percent of the blaze that has scorched about 6,200 acres, or roughly 10 square miles. It was the first time officials reported being able to hold any part of the 20-mile-long fire perimeter.
The reported loss of homes surpasses that of the 2002 Hayman fire in southern Colorado that was the most destructive in the state's history. That fire destroyed 133 homes and 466 outbuildings over 138,000 acres in a more sparsely populated area that includes national forest land.
The Boulder fire's toll is likely to rise as firefighters get a clearer picture of the damage. Four people remained unaccounted for, but no deaths or injuries have been reported.
The cause of the fire is being investigated.
"I understand people are angry, they're anxious, they want to go home," Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said during the public meeting. "Please be patient with us."
The anger that has flared as homeowners have shouted questions at officials during news briefings was absent at Wednesday night's gathering. People applauded when speakers mentioned the firefighters. Nine volunteer firefighters have lost their homes.
Firefighters took advantage of cooler weather and light rain to attack the wildfire Wednesday, and air tankers dumped fire retardant on the flames. A total of 100,000 gallons of retardant has been used and firefighting costs have reached $2.1 million so far.
Fire managers said as many as 500 firefighters and support personnel are at the fire and more are on the way. Laura McConnell, spokeswoman for the management team, said crews are dealing with downed power lines, debris, poison ivy and rattlesnakes. They also have to watch for propane tanks in the area.