Black Forest residents return home: Hoping for 100 percent containment

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Just a little over a week after the most destructive fire in Colorado history started the fire is now 95 percent contained and some residents have been allowed to go home.

As of June 20 the fire, which started on June 11, burned 14,280 acres taking 509 homes with it as it devoured anything in its path. As of the morning of June 20 the fire was 95 percent contained and Rich Harvey, incident commander, was hoping for 100 percent containment by the evening.

Harvey and his Type I incident command team were getting ready to leave and move on to another fire and the Type 3 management team was scheduled to take over on June 21.

“The fire is not a done deal. The fire will not be left unattended,” Harvey said.

The fire also tragically took two lives. The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has identified the victims as 52-year-old Marc Herklotz and his wife 50-year-old Robin Herklotz of 6720 Jicarillo Drive. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa has said the couple were found in their garage and appeared to be getting ready to evacuate.

During a news briefing when Maketa first announced two victims had been found Maketa said that someone who had spoken with the couple the afternoon of the fire said the two had said there was a glow to the west and they were preparing to leave. During a second conversation with the couple popping and cracking could be heard in the background.

Marc Herklotz was a civilian contractor and Robin Herklotz was an Air Force contractor according to a press release issued from Air Force Space Command.

“The men and women of Air Force Space Command are saddened by the loss of these two members of our AFSPC family,” said Gen. William L. Shelton, AFSPC commander, in a statement. “I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Marc and Robin during this very difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Most areas of Black Forest re-opened at 10:00 a.m. June 20 for residents to go back home or to their properties except for Darr Circle, Peregrine Way, Falcon Drive, 12715 Milam Road and 4150 and 4350 Shoup Road. These areas are still closed due to an active crime scene investigation. Residents with Black Forest Fire Re-Entry Information Packets and red placards were allowed open entry to the burn areas. Access was allowed for residents at all road closure points and without restricted hours.

The National Guard and law enforcement agencies that have been assisting El Paso County Sheriff's Office will no longer be needed to secure check points after 8:00 a.m. June 22 when roads will be open except those around the crime scene.

Maketa thanked the law enforcement agencies that have assisted them and said there are many stories of heroic acts from law enforcement and firefighters. He also said there were seven burglaries in the evacuation areas and they are being investigated.

The June 20 press briefing was the last formal press conference.