Colorado wildfires 2013: Thousands evacuate as fast-moving fires rage

At least four major wildfires broke out along the front of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado today, burning a handful of houses and chasing people from thousands of homes.

By , Associated Press

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    The wildfires burning in Colorado are generating smoke plumes visible for miles, like this one from the Big Meadows Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park, visible above Longs Peak as seen today from Boulder, Colo.
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At least four major wildfires broke out along the front of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Tuesday, burning a handful of houses and chasing people from thousands of homes in hot, gusty weather.

Thick smoke plumes visible for miles billowed from fires near Colorado Springs, in southern Colorado, and in Rocky Mountain National Park to the north.

A wildfire in a residential area northeast of Colorado Springs forced mandatory evacuations of 2,530 homes, including some worth more than $1 million, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said.

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Video from a helicopter showed several large homes engulfed in flames. Maketa said about eight homes had burned but had no exact number because the fire was moving so quickly across parched forest.

"Right now the firefighters are more focused on fighting fires, drawing lines. And law enforcement, to be very honest, is scrambling to get people out of there as well as do searches," Maketa said. He said firefighters have shifted from evacuation mode to search and rescue mode.

Three helicopters were battling the Black Forest Fire, he said. The area is not far from last summer's devastating Waldo Canyon Fire that destroyed 346 homes and killed two.

"It's very, very reminiscent of what we experienced in Waldo Canyon," Maketa said.

All the Colorado wildfires were moving quickly, driven by hot, gusty winds and record-setting temperatures.

The conditions were making it difficult to build containment lines around the fire, as sparks jumped across them.

"Weather is not working with us right now, but our guys are giving it a heck of a shot," Maketa said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries in any of the fires.

In southern Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management said three structures have been lost in a fire on about 300 acres near the Royal Gorge Bridge. Authorities evacuated Royal Gorge Bridge & Park.

A third wildfire in southern Colorado erupted Tuesday in rural Huerfano County. The Klikus Fire had burned an estimated 45 to 50 acres west of La Veta, prompting evacuation orders to about 200 residences northeast of the fire.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or structure damage.

The cause of those fires wasn't immediately confirmed.

A fourth wildfire sparked by lightning Monday in Rocky Mountain National Park quickly grew to an estimated 300 to 400 acres Tuesday. No structures were threatened.

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