Evacuees in Colorado Springs are waiting and watching Wednesday from hotel rooms, homes of friends and emergency shelters to see if their homes will go up in flames as a fire that started about three miles west of downtown in Waldo Canyon spread into the city's western suburbs.
Intersections were blocked by panicked drivers trying to escape. Sirens wailed all around. I felt trapped in a horror movie, Bill Vogrin of the Colorado Springs Gazette wrote about his experience evacuating his home with his family on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to tour burned areas of Colorado on Friday.
Winds up to 60 miles per hour created vortexes that caused the fire to jump and shift directions, making it more difficult for firefighters to contain the blaze. The weather calmed a bit overnight, giving firefighters a respite from the random wind conditions that caused the fire to jump containment barriers on Tuesday, sparking an evacuation of over 30,000 residents of the state's second-largest city.
The U.S. Forest Service says 18,500 acres have been torched and that only 5 percent of the fire has been contained. The agency says it could take more than two weeks to extinguish the fire.
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Seven other wildfires are burning in the state, the largest in Larimer County 15 miles west of Ft. Collins in the north which has burned over 85,000 acres, but all eyes are on the fire that is currently threatening the largest number of structures.
At the nearby US Air Force Academy where the next generation of fighter pilots trains, the Army was called in to help prevent the fire from spreading onto the base as new cadets were scheduled to arrive Thursday.
No estimates on the number of destroyed homes have been released, but an Associated Press flyover revealed dozens of heavily damaged or completely razed homes.
We only packed clothes for four days, Florine Gigandet, 83, a retired photo printer, told AP. I really thought that we'd be gone for only a day.
While most fires in the state are being sparked by lightning from thunderstorms, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the cause of the Waldo Canyon blaze.
Thursday's U.S. Forest Service fire report shows 39 major fires in the western states, including five with considerable threats to man-made structures, such as homes, commercial properties and government buildings.