Waldo Canyon fire reaches 'epic proportions' (+video)
Waldo Canyon fire: Evacuations continued near Colorado Springs Wednesday as the Waldo Canyon fire is only five percent contained, and weather conditions may fan the flames Wednesday, say Colorado officials.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
A wildfire raging near some of Colorado's most popular tourist sites grew suddenly more ferocious on Tuesday, forcing 32,000 people from their homes, prompting evacuations from the U.S. Air Force Academy and swallowing numerous houses at the edge of Colorado Springs.
From the vantage point of a command post about 10 miles (16 km) from the path of advancing flames, the entire community of Mountain Shadows, a northwest subdivision, appeared to be enveloped in an orange glow after dark.
"This is a fire of epic proportions," Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown said as ash drifted down on the city, sirens wailed and the thick smell of smoke permeated the air.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper flew into the city Tuesday night by helicopter to meet with fire commanders and tour the fire zone first-hand. He noted that the blaze was one of at least a dozen burning throughout the state. Four people have died in Colorado wildfires so far this year.
"This is the worst fire season in the history of Colorado," he said during an impromptu news conference, adding that from the air he saw many homes destroyed in a glowing landscape that looked "surreal."
The Waldo Canyon Fire, which has roared through at least 6,200 acres of dry timber since Saturday, has grabbed attention for days because of its proximity to landmarks like the famed mountaintop of Pikes Peak and the Air Force Academy.
The blaze claimed its first property losses on Tuesday as wind-driven flames swept over containment lines into Colorado's second-most populous city, consuming an unknown number of homes on the town's outskirts as authorities hurried to evacuate residents.
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