The Waldo Canyon fire spreads through a neighborhood in the hills above Colorado Springs on Tuesday, June 26. See more photos at The Denver Post.
Hazy smoke from the Waldo Canyon Fire looms behind the Air Force Academy stadium on Wednesday, June 27, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The fire expanded to 15,000 acres. More than 32,000 people have been evacuated.
Susan Custer, left, and her husband, Gary Custer, watch the Waldo Canyon Fire on Wednesday.
At dawn on Tuesday, firefighters stir from their tents at a camp near Holmes Middle School.
Smoke billows from the Waldo Canyon Fire west of Colorado Springs on Tuesday.
Evacuees drive under a shroud of smoke from the Waldo Canyon Fire on Tuesday.
J’Amie Sirvaitis of Colorado Springs watches the Waldo Canyon Fire after winds pushed the fire into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood in Colorado Springs on Tuesday.
Residents of Colorado Springs watch as the Waldo Canyon Fire burns a home in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood on Tuesday.
Smoke from the Waldo Canyon Fire engulfs Interstate 25 north of Colorado Springs, Colorado, as the blaze burns out of control Tuesday.
A large plume of smoke from the Waldo Canyon Fire fills the sky west of Colorado Springs on Tuesday.
Jan Stone, right, comforts Angela Morgan as smoke from the Waldo Canyon Fire pours over the Mountain Shadows neighborhood of Colorado Springs on Tuesday.
A portion of the Waldo Canyon Fire moves across a hillside above a subdivision west of Colorado Springs on Tuesday.
Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Department of Transportation personnel set up a roadblock west of Manitou Springs, Colorado, on Monday, June 25.
A portion of the Waldo Canyon fire burns out of control in the hills west of Manitou Springs on Monday.
Trees burn on a ridge above Cedar Heights in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Sunday, June 24.
Greg and Karen Bodine help her father, Duane Schormann, left, load his animals into a trailer near Colorado Springs as they evacuate the area Sunday.
The High Park Fire, which was 45% contained as of Saturday, has destroyed 191 homes west of Fort Collins.
The High Park Fire rages through the forest west of Fort Collins, Colorado, on Tuesday, June 19.
Local resident Dwayne Crawford looks out at the High Park Fire from his home west of Fort Collins on Tuesday, June 19.
A heavy air tanker drops fire retardant on the blaze June 19. Its growth potential was “extreme,” according to authorities.
Flames scorched this area outside of Fort Collins where the High Park Fire has burned out.
A helicopter drops water over the Wood Hollow Fire north of Fairview, Utah, on Tuesday.
A wall of fire makes its way down a hillside toward a farm north of Fairview, Utah, on Tuesday. The Wood Hollow Fire, one of at least three wildfires burning in Utah, has grown to nearly 39,000 acres.
Smoldering earth and damage from the Dump Fire, which began June 21, can be seen outside a plant near Saratoga Springs, Utah, on Saturday, June 23.
Burned-out terrain from the Dump Fire fills a hillside near Saratoga Springs, Utah on Saturday.
The smoke plume from a fire in the Los Padres National Forest, which began on June 16, billows into the sky. The fire burned more than 500 acres before it was contained.
Firefighters watch as the wildfire spreads throught the Los Padres National Forest on June 16. Another fire in San Diego County has burned almost 1000 acres leading to 150 homes being evacuated.
A helicopter makes a water drop on the wildfire in Los Padres National Forest on June 16.
The Poco Fire from Rim Vista in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona ignited on June 14 and spread to 4,900 acres.
An airplane drops retardant on the 257 Fire near Superior, Arizona, on June 14. The blaze was about 85% contained at a size of more than 2,800 acres.
Firefighters battle the Little Bear Fire in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico on June 14. The Little Bear Fire had burned more than 40,000 acres and was still spreading.
The Little Bear Fire spreads across a road in the Lincoln National Forest on June 13.
Firefighters in New Mexico struggle on June 14 to contain the Little Bear blaze, which has destroyed more than 250 structures.
This portion of landscape was charred by the Little Bear Fire in New Mexico on June 14. Are wildfires blazing near you? Share photos and videos with iReport here, but please stay safe.
(CNN) — Calming winds could help Colorado firefighters gain ground Thursday on an explosive wildfire that has devoured more than 15,500 acres and chased 36,000 people from their homes near Colorado Springs.
The development would be welcome news to crews that have been battling erratic winds since early in the week.
“We are learning as we fight this fire some of its tricks,” said incident commander Rich Harvey. “And one of its tricks is to run down these hills that way. You can fool us once, maybe, but not twice.”
Officials said they had not completed an inventory of homes and other structures lost or damaged by the Waldo Canyon Fire, which was only 5% contained late Wednesday.
The rampaging blaze has captured Washington’s attention, from the White House to the FBI.
President Barack Obama will travel to the Colorado Springs area Friday to survey the damage and thank responders battling the blaze, the White House said.
The Denver office of the FBI, meanwhile, has joined local authorities in investigating reports that the fire may have been set.
“It infuriates me and it just makes my blood boil,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said at the thought an arsonist may have started the fire. “It creates a physical reaction in me … to think that there’s someone out there, because they get some kick … there’s some joy that they get (from setting a fire).”
The forecast in the coming days will be somewhat kinder to firefighters.
Temperatures are expected to cool into the lower 90s with winds no more than 10 mph — a far cry from the 65 mph gusts on Tuesday that whipped the flames through mountain canyons and past containment lines.
The Waldo Canyon Fire captured attention because of its proximity to landmarks such as Pikes Peak and the Air Force Academy, and also to Colorado Springs, a city of about 400,000, the state’s second largest.
The scale of the fire is such that smoke blankets the sky 40 miles to the north, said Castle Rock resident Heather Gardner.
“It’s just really devastating to see that landscape completely charred and people’s homes lost,” she said. “I pray for that community and the rescue workers involved in keeping everyone safe.”
The inferno has been a challenge even for some of the country’s best firefighters – sometimes getting the best of them.
“We have rehearsed and practiced disasters,” said Dave Rose, public information officer for El Paso County, which includes Colorado Springs. “We have never seen one like this before.”
Some rain did fall Wednesday on a separate fire burning near Boulder, according to the National Weather Service, but the extended forecast calls for no more than a slight chance of precipitation.
The bone-dry conditions may make the Fourth of July holiday less festive for many Coloradans. Fireworks displays in Jefferson and Douglas counties — to the south and west of Denver — have been canceled.
With tens of thousands of state residents out of their homes, the Denver Broncos pledged $50,000 to relief efforts for the wildfires.
“This is our home, and we need to do whatever we can to take care of our neighbors,” team owner Pat Bowlen said. “If at all possible, I encourage our fans to help however they can in providing relief during this time of need.”
Richard Brown, the Colorado Springs fire chief, on Tuesday described the Waldo Canyon Fire as a “firestorm of epic proportions.”
Stan and Darlene Colbert were among the last families in the evacuation zone to pull out. They waited, hoping the fire would subside, but after watching the flames from their back porch, they knew it was time to go.
The first things the couple — married 43 years — packed were the family photos.
“Every one of them I could find. Every photo because I can’t replace those,” said Darlene Colbert.
The flames came dangerously close to the Air Force Academy’s main campus, and an evacuation order was issued for about 700 residents in its Pine Valley Housing and 1,400 in Douglass Valley Housing, said public affairs officer John Van Winkle.
The facility was closed to visitors Wednesday, with only essential personnel asked to report.
The academy’s powered flight, glider and parachuting operations have been called off since Saturday so that the U.S. Forest Service could use runways for helicopters used to fight fires along Colorado’s Front Range, Van Winkle said.
The academy’s Class of 2016 — all 1,045 cadets — is still scheduled to arrive Thursday, but officials are making contingency plans in case they have to report to a different location on the base.
Rose, the county information officer, said one in four callers to the joint information center are offering food for firefighters, shelter for displaced neighbors or to volunteer in some capacity.
“It is a somber resolve,” Rose told CNN. “There’s no doubt that we have a grim reality that we have lost a number of structures. Our western border mountain vista has dramatically altered.”
Colorado wildfires had consumed 181,426 acres by Wednesday afternoon, according to the Colorado Division of Emergency Management.
The largest of the fires was the High Park Fire, which began June 9 and has now consumed 87,284 acres, the U.S. Forest Service said. It was 75% contained late Wednesday. The total number of homes burned stood at 257. An estimated $33.5 million has been spent trying to contain the blaze.
CNN’s Jim Spellman contributed to this report.
Article source: http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/28/us/western-wildfires/index.html