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Colorado Wildfires See 32,000 Evacuated
An "epic" wildfire in Colorado has forced around 32,000 people from their homes after it suddenly grew more ferocious.
Roads were jammed as the blaze engulfed homes on the edge of Colorado Springs and saw the US Air Force Academy evacuated.
Looking from a command post about 10 miles from the path of advancing flames, the entire community of Mountain Shadows appeared to be enveloped in an orange glow after dark.
Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown said: "This is a fire of epic proportions."
The state's governor, John Hickenlooper, flew into the city by helicopter to meet fire commanders and tour the area.
He noted that the blaze was one of at least a dozen burning throughout the state, with four people having died in Colorado wildfires so far this year.
"This is the worst fire season in the history of Colorado," he said, adding that from the air he saw many homes swallowed up in a glowing landscape that looked "surreal."
The Waldo Canyon Fire, which has roared through at least 6,200 acres of dry timber, has grabbed headlines for days because of its proximity to landmarks like the famed mountaintop of Pikes Peak and the Air Force Academy.
Tuesday saw flames sweep over containment lines into Colorado's second-most populous city, wiping out an unknown number of homes on the outskirts as authorities hurried to evacuate residents.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said 32,000 people had been evacuated.
Fire information officer Rob Deyerberg said: "We are in a very critical situation now.
"Unfortunately we do have structures and homes that are burning in the northwest corner of Colorado Springs. We have mandatory evacuation over a considerable area."
A mushroom cloud of grey, black and brown smoke, topped by billowing, white cumulus clouds, could be seen rising nearly 20,000 feet (6,100 metres) into the sky.