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Colorado faces worst wildfire season in a decade (+video)

In Colorado, at least 248 homes have been destroyed this summer. More than 6,000 people have been evacuated this weekend near Colorado Springs.

Colorado wildfire near Pikes Peak
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Wildfires damaged more than a dozen Colorado homes over the weekend and forced evacuations for thousands more while shrouding top state tourist destinations in smoke and emptying hotels and campgrounds ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.

Colorado is having its worst wildfire season in a decade, with more than a half dozen forest fires burning across the state's parched terrain. So far this summer, at least 248 homes have been destroyed west of Fort Collins. One of the newest fires, a blaze near Colorado Springs, grew to more than 3 square miles Sunday after erupting just a day earlier and prompting evacuation orders for 11,000 residents and an unknown number of tourists.

The fire sent plumes of gray and white smoke over the area that obscured at times Pikes Peak, the most-summited high-elevation mountain in the nation and inspiration for the song "America The Beautiful."

IN PICTURES: Wildfires sweeping the west

Winds had started to push smoke away from Colorado Springs and evacuations orders were lifted for the 5,000 residents of nearby Manitou Springs, but area residents and tourists still watched nervously as haze wrapped around the peak.

"We're used to flooding and tornadoes, nothing like this," said Amanda Rice, who recently moved to the area from Rock Falls, Ill. Rice, her husband, four children and dog. They left a Manitou Springs hotel late Saturday.

Rice, scared when she saw flames, took her family to the evacuation center before she was told to go.

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