Colorado wildfire jumps perimeter, forces 32,000 to evacuate

Colorado wildfire: More than 32,000 residents of Colorado Springs, including some at the US Air Force Academy, were ordered to evacuate Tuesday. The Waldo Canyon wildfire has now burned more than 10 square miles of Colorado. 

(AP Photo/Bryan Oller)
People flee the Waldo Canyon Fire with little time to spare as the fire burns through neighborhoods west of Colorado Springs, Colo. on Tuesday, June 26, 2012.

 A stubborn and towering wildfire jumped firefighters' perimeter lines in the hills overlooking Colorado Springs, forcing frantic mandatory evacuation notices for more than 32,000 residents, including the U.S. Air Force Academy.

The fire destroyed an unknown number of homes, but no injuries were reported.

El Paso County sheriff's spokeswoman Jackie Kirby said Wednesday that at least six subdivisions were included in the evacuation orders, along with residents of the Air Force Academy.

IN PICTURES: Wildfires sweep the west

The evacuation area extended all the way to Interstate 25, the major thoroughfare that runs north and south through the city.

She said the fire broke out Tuesday evening and spread quickly into the Colorado Springs city limits.

"It's an extremely active fire. It just flew," she said.

The wildfire moved closer to the Air Force Academy campus, prompting an evacuation order for about 700 residents in its Pine Valley Housing and 1,400 in Douglass Valley Housing, said public affairs officer John Van Winkle. The Academy has stopped it's aviation training operations to allow the U.S. Forest Service to use its runways for helicopters used to fight fires, Van Winkle said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper said the blaze was "almost surreal."

"It was like looking at the worst movie set you could imagine," Hickenlooper said after flying over the fire late Tuesday. "You look at that, and it's like nothing I've seen before."

The Waldo Canyon fire started June 23 west of the city and now covers more than 10 square miles.

To the north in Boulder County, officials evacuated 26 households when a wildfire erupted Tuesday afternoon. In northern Colorado, the 136-square-mile High Park Fire has destroyed 257 homes and killed one woman.

IN PICTURES: Wildfires sweep the west

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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