(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) — A western wildfire being fueled by strong winds and scorching temperatures has burned past firefighters’ defenses and is menacing the city of Colorado Springs. Firefighters battling the out of control blaze, which has grown to more than 15,000 acres, say they are bracing for worsening conditions.
“We expect further trouble from the weather today,” said one official. “Thunderstorms present a unique problem for us. The wind can come in any direction from those … at any time with pretty strong gusts.”
About 1,000 firefighters are battling the Waldo Canyon blaze, which jumped to houses after getting refueled by 65 mph winds. About 32,000 people from Colorado Springs had to flee to safety. The fires are just 5 percent contained.
According to the Defense Department, four C-130s from the Air Force had released nearly 60,000 gallons of retardant over the canyon as of this morning.
Forty homes appeared to go up flames but authorities would not release an updated number. At the U.S. Air Force Academy, 700 cadets and personnel were ordered to leave.
Three shelters have been opened for evacuees and residents were urged to remain inside because of the unhealthy air quality.
There were no reports of injuries or new evacuations. Authorities said they had not yet determined the fire’s cause despite reports of arson.
The windy weather and record heat hampered authorities’ efforts to fight wildfires in the surrounding states as well. In addition to Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana are under red-flag warnings, which warn of extreme fire danger.
One woman was found dead Tuesday after authorities revisited an evacuated area in Utah. Four homes were destroyed in northern Montana and a state of emergency was issued by the governor for four counties.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Steve Visser, CNN
Hope King, CNN
Sandee LaMotte, CNN