A wildfire that was first spotted on Saturday near Pikes Peak in Colorado has burned more than 4,000 acres and displaced more than 11,000 people, as firefighters—backed by military cargo planes—continue to battle raging blazes throughout the state.
Fueled by dry conditions, high temperatures and hot winds, the Waldo Canyon fire—located about 80 miles south of Denver—”sent a mushroom cloud of smoke nearly 20,000 feet into the air over Colorado Springs near the foot of Pikes Peak,” Reuters reported.
According to the Denver Post, four C-130 military aircraft tankers were called in to help battle the blaze, dropping 3,000 gallons of fire retardant on the fire in shifts Monday afternoon. There are only eight such planes in use in the the United States, the paper said.
[Slideshow: Readers' photos from Colorado's wildfires]
More than 11,000 residents were evacuated, though more than half of them were allowed to return to their homes late Monday, leaving 4,800 displaced west of Colorado Springs. To this point, no deaths or injuries have been reported, fire officials say, but firefighters have managed to contain just 5 percent of the fire’s perimeter. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The highway leading to Pikes Peak, as well as popular tourist attractions like the cog railway and Garden of the Gods, remain closed. Several trails and a recreation area near the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs were shut down, too.
The wildfire is one of about a dozen burning in Colorado, including the High Park Fire—Colorado’s second largest ever—which has scorched more than 83,000 acres, destroyed 248 homes and is blamed for at least one death.
According to MSNBC, the Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized the use of federal funds to fight the Colorado fires.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said more than 2,000 people are battling the fires. Not surprisingly, the state has also issued a ban on fireworks and campfires, according to NPR.
“We’re going to be continuing to have to deal with these fires for weeks to come,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told Reuters. “We anticipate it’s going to be a long fire season.”