The remaining evacuees from an enormous Colorado wildfire were allowed to return home Monday morning. A few hours later, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office announced the fire was 100 percent contained.
At the peak, 900 homes were evacuated as the Lower North Fork Fire raged in the mountains southwest of Denver. Residents of all but 50 homes were allowed to return home by Sunday.
The fire has scorched thousands of acres, and damaged or destroyed at least 27 homes, and killing two. One woman is still unaccounted for, though human remains were found in her charred home Saturday.
The 4,140-acre fire started March 26 after winds blew embers from a controlled burn across established containment lines into fresh fuels. The 50-acre controlled burn had been conducted by the Colorado State Forest Service.
The Colorado State Forest Service has apologized for its role in causing the fire. The Forest Service says the use of prescribed burns is a well-established tool, and called the unexpected breach of containment “heartbreaking.”
“We are sorry: Despite the best efforts of the Colorado State Forest Service to prevent this very kind of tragic wildfire, we now join Colorado in hoping for the safety of those fighting a large fire, and mourning the loss of life and property,” the Forest Service said in a written statement.
An independent panel is being assembled to conduct a review of the prescribed burn. In the meantime, the Governor has suspended the use of prescribed burns by state agencies on state land until the review is complete.
The bodies of Sam Lucas and Linda Lucas were found burned in their home earlier this week. It's unknown why they didn't escape; a neighbor said they were packed and ready to leave Monday, when the fire started.
The couple were remembered in a service at Southern Gables Church in Littleton Friday.