BLACK FOREST -- Containment on the Black Forest fire could take until Thursday, and hundreds of evacuees will have to wait, fire managers said Sunday.
On the fifth day since it began on June 11, the fire had consumed 14,198 acres, 485 homes and two lives. The blaze was 65 percent contained Sunday, and authorities were confident all the casualties had been recorded.
"There's no further loss of life," El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said at a noon news conference.
Investigators have not yet determined what started the fire. But Maketa has said it is likely to have been human-caused. He said investigators are zeroing in on the point of origin and have called instate and federal ATF experts to help.
The two deaths in the fire have been classified as homicides because it has not yet been determined how they died.
The two have not been named; it appears they were packing up to evacuate when they were overcome, authorities have said.
"This is a crime scene until proven otherwise," Maketa said. "I won't compromise that by letting people in too soon."
About 1,175 personnel worked the fire Sunday to continue to secure the perimeter, the incident team reported, with an emphasis on "mop-up and extinguishment around structures to prevent further fire loss." All military helicopters have been released from fire duty, although the Colorado National Guard is still engaged.
The dry fuels and forecast for thunderstorms means there is still a threat to homes within the fire's footprint.
Teams will concentrate on finding and putting out hot spots.
"We have a long road here," Maketa said. He stressed that while officials want to get people back into their homes, they have to first make sure it safe. "We have a lot of work to do."
The Black Forest fire is the most destructive in Colorado history, surpassing the Waldo Canyon fire of 2012 that destroyed 346 homes.
Officials say the firefighting costs so far are $5.2 million.
Incident commander Rich Harvey told the news conference that the crews had a good night Saturday and are actively engaged on Sunday. He said containment had been increased to 65 percent from the 55 percent on Saturday.
Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted overnight in the following areas: east to Meridian from County Line Road to Burgess Road;Colorado 83 west to Sun Hills and Baptist roads; Walker Road north to County Line Road and and Black Forest east to Colorado 83.
Maketa said no large numbers of people or large areas would be repopulated Sunday, but authorities are hoping to open up relatively small parts of the southwest perimeter along and near Burgess Road.
Photos: Black Forest wildfire
- View more photos from the Black Forest fire near Colorado Springs.
- View aerial images of the Black Forest fire destruction.
- Black Forest residents thank firefighting crews.
- Watch raw video of the Black Forest fire on June 11, 2013
- Watch Black Forest fire evacuees tell their stories.
- Watch El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa talk about the Black Forest fire on June 12, 2013
- Raw video: Mules escape the Black Forest fire
"I'm not going to create the impression that people are going home tomorrow," Maketa said. "That's not going to happen."
He said that in addition to a potential crime scene, the fire has created hazards, including trees that could topple and damaged roads.
"We're not even close to ready," Maketa said.
He asked the public to oblige the rules or face consequences.
"We will be forced to arrest a victim of the fire," he said.
People in the opened areas on are notice to be ready to leave again if an evacuation is ordered.
Residents are being warned not to eat food that has thawed from freezers left without power. Dumpsters will be provided at the North Black Forest Fire Station on the turnout at Ridge Run Road and at the southeast corner of Burgess Road, as well as the El Paso County Slash and Mulch Site on Herring Road.
Heavy duty plastic trash bags will be available at these sites, as well. Regular trash pickup will resume starting Tuesday.
The sheriff's office said that trash pickup should start at noon Sunday for those allowed home. Utility companies are working to get gas and electricity back on as well. There are 10 teams of building inspectors checking on the safety of damaged homes, a member of the board of El Paso County commissioners said.
"We want to make sure we are not the limiting factor in you getting back into your house," Dennis Hisey said.
Hisey said that county officials are working to set up locations where residents will be able to receive tetanus vaccinations before returning to the evacuation zone.
"We don't need a tetanus epidemic on top of a disaster," Hisey said.
As of Saturday, all of the military helicopters assisting crews with the fire were relieved. The helicopters dropped more than 800,000 gallons -- 1,297 bambi buckets -- of water on the fire.
After the noon news briefing, Maketa spoke privately with a group of residents for almost 40 minutes. Between answering their questions and taking down their names and addresses, Maketa shook hands and even accepted hugs.
Scott Riebel engulfed Maketa in a long hug after the sheriff answered his questions about his home.
"I needed it more than he did," Riebel said of the hug.
Riebel's home, where he and his wife have lived for more than 20 years, was spared by the fire. For the first time after he and his wife were evacuated on Tuesday, the couple was escorted back to their home on Friday.
"We turned north off of Shoup and it was like going through a moonscape. Everything was black and gray," Riebel said. "It was horrible."
The couple drove past homes that had been reduced to rubble, include those of their friends and neighbors, before turning into their driveway.
"There are points at which you just have to shut stuff off," Riebel sighed.
He and his wife have already promised that they would help their neighbor sift through the ashes for any valuables or memories that were left intact. While Riebel was grateful that the fire skipped over his home, he struggled to express the guilt he felt for all the homes the fire consumed.
"I'm so relieved our stuff is there," Riebel said. "But the people who lost everything ... it's just awful."
Heavy raindrops started pounding on firefighters' tents scattered across the football field at Pine Creek High School, where the incident command post had been established. Signs from residents were posted on the fence that stretched around the school.
Big block letters spelled messages such as "We love our firefighters" and "Strong Colorado."
Nikki Connon, who was evacuated from her home during the Waldo Canyon fire, brought a homemade gift for Rich Harvey, who was the incident commander for last summer's fire as well. A lemon cake was wrapped in a banner of frosting that read "Thank you Rich Harvey." Crystals from a rock candy stick glistened on top of the mounds of frosting that had been molded into mountains.
Rich Harvey (the fire incident commander) is a bit of a local hero," Connon said. "I call him the 'fire genius.'"
Still, some residents who remain evacuated expressed frustration and asked officials when they would be allowed home.
While looking at a map of the burn zone, Bill Frost did his best to help calm one frustrated resident. Frost has been out of his home since Tuesday.
A photo from firefighters confirmed that his house was still standing.
"We just have to try and be patient and know that these guys are doing everything they can," Frost said.
At the Safeway store in Falcon, residents who had been evacuated and were returning home and residents who had been on pre-evacuation notice loaded bags of groceries into their cars.
Several had stories of friends or neighbors who were affected by the fire. The emotional stress of waiting and the guilt of being spared by the fire was evident for many.
Jocelyn Vlasak wiped away tears as she described the days her family spent on pre-evacuation notice. Sunday morning was the first time she and her husband felt safe enough to unpack their cars.
"It's very scary," Vlasak said. "You don't know if you're going to lose your house."
Vlasak and her family watched for days as strong winds blew the fire both toward and away from their home.
"You feel so great when you watch it head away from your house, but then you feel so guilty because it's almost like you're wishing the worst on someone else," Vlasak said. "It's all just sad and I feel so bad for the people who lost their homes."
Maketa said that numerous resources were engaged in protecting the homes of evacuees. So far officials have documents four burglaries, one obstruction of justice charge and one impersonation of an official. The sheriff would not comment further on details about the impersonation case.
Maketa stressed that the crimes would taken seriously and pursued by the district attorney's office.
Early Sunday, Colorado 83 was re-opened from Powers Boulevard to Walker Road. Clusters of vehicles still gathered at checkpoints east of the highway, which remain closed to residents.
Blue skies and cooler temperature set in near the Black Forest fire area and in some places Sunday routines returned a sense of normalcy.
At the Black Bear Diner in Colorado Springs, a crowd -- many celebrating Father's Day -- waited for tables. The conversations were palpable with news and stories of the fire.
Billie Nigro and her husband Paul, who visit the diner almost every Sunday after church, said the congregation at the Holy Apostles Church had activated a prayer chain for those affected by the fire.
"Colorado Springs is a very large small town," Billie Nigro said. "People here will always come together and help each other."
Nigro said she had friends who lost homes in the Black Forest fire and the Waldo Canyon fire last summer.
During each fire, Nigro said she was inspired by the number of volunteers who helped with everything from the shelters to caring for victims' pets and the donations made to help those in need. None of the generosity surprised her. "Even just being there to listen matters," Nigro said.