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Fire near Pikes Peak blackens 4.500 acres

Waldo Canyon fire within half-dozen miles of U.S. Air Force Academy

COLORADO SPRINGS | June 26, 2012

A brutal windswept Colorado wildfire that forced more than 6,000 people from their homes near Pikes Peak Tuesday charred more than 4,500 acres, officials said.

The Waldo Canyon fire was within a half-dozen miles of the U.S. Air Force Academy, located immediately north of Colorado Springs.

"I saw a lot of glow in the Air Force Academy area," Colorado Springs Fire Department spokeswoman Sunny Smaldino told The (Colorado Springs) Gazette Monday night.

The voracious fire's giant flames -- which forced evacuations of the Cascade, Green Mountain Falls and Chipita Park communities near 14,115-foot Pikes Peak in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains -- were fueled by a triple-digit four-day heat wave, relative-humidity levels near zero and sustained hot winds of 10 mph to 20 mph and gusts of up to 35 mph, the National Weather Service said.

This combination will create "explosive fire growth potential," the service said, as it also issued a red flag warning of imminent fire danger for most of the state through 9 p.m. MDT (11 p.m. EDT) Tuesday.

Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a statewide ban on open burning and a ban on personal fireworks ahead of next week's Fourth of July holiday.

Temperatures were forecast to reach 100 degrees again Tuesday and remain in the upper 90s during the day through Saturday, AccuWeather forecast.

Lightning strikes were forecast in tinder-dry areas, the weather service said.

Rain was not due until July 4 or 5.

About 600 firefighters battled the Waldo Canyon fire -- one of a half-dozen large fires burning across the state's dry terrain in the worst wildfire season in a decade.

The High Park fire, burning for weeks near Fort Collins, has charred more than 83,000 acres and destroyed 248 homes.

That blaze -- one of the largest and most destructive in Colorado history -- is 45 percent contained.

The Waldo Canyon fire, which started Saturday, is 5 percent contained.

Wildfires are burning in much of the West.

In southwestern New Mexico, the largest wildfire in state history has burned about 300,000 acres.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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