UPDATE: Rich Harvey's Type 1 Incident Management Team announced containment at 100 percent around 6 p.m. Thursday, as expected from comments made earlier in the day.


As of 10 a.m. Thursday, residents of most of the Black Forest burn area have unlimited access to their properties, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office announced.

The focus of the Black Forest fire investigation - Darr Circle, Peregrine Way, Falcon Drive, 12715 Milam Road, 4150 and 4350 Shoup Road - remains closed to residents.

Residents must have Black Forest fire re-entry packets and red placards to access the areas; residents can access the burn area at all road closure points. Those residents without re-entry packets can get them at the Black Forest Road and Shoup Road checkpoint. Residents should have their driver's license and/or vehicle registration.

The entire burn area - except for the restricted investigation zone - will be open to the public at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 22.

Fire investigators have zeroed in on a 28 foot square zone where the Black Forest fire ignited on June 11, said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa at a Thursday morning news briefing.

The on-scene fire investigation, around Falcon Drive and Peregrine Way, will wrap up at 5 p.m. Thursday, as Black Forest residents have unfettered access to much of the burn area.

"One thing that my investigators have given me the authority to state is that they have all but ruled out natural causes as the cause of this fire," Maketa said. "I can't really go any further on that, but I can say we are pretty confident it was not, for instance, a lightning strike."

The Black Forest fire, which burned 509 homes and killed two people, was 95 percent contained as of Thursday morning. Maketa expects the fire to fully contained and extinguished possibly by the 6 p.m.

In the meantime, Rich Harvey's Great Basin Incident Management Team is packing up, and getting ready to hand over the fire to a lower-level, Type 3 management team. That team will officially take over at 6 a.m. on Friday.

"This fire is not a done deal. That fire will not be left unattended," said Harvey. "There's a Type 3 team they are out there with us right now today."

The team has put in 72,000 hours of work on the blaze-about 32 years of work for the average person, Harvey said.

Thursday also marks the first day of unlimited access to Black Forest communities for residents, with the exception of...

Residents alone will be able to access the west side of the burn area with red placards, until 8 a.m. on Saturday morning when the burn area will open to the public for the first time since the fire started. The east side of the burn area opened to the public last week.

Much of the burn scar is still in pre-evacuation status, which Maketa expects to downgrade, region by region, over the next three days.

Harvey and his Deputy Incident Commander Paul Broyles effectively said good-bye to Colorado, at their last public news briefing for the Black Forest fire.

"Hopefully there won't be another next time, but we said the same thing about this time last year," said Broyles.

"Good luck Colorado with fire season," Harvey said.