Waldo Canyon Fire: More than 11,000 evacuated as fire rages


Smoke from the High Park Fire rises from the hillside looking west along Colorado State Highway 14 on June 11, 2012.


Marc Piscotty

A wildfire that broke out west of Colorado Springs, Colo., on Saturday has forced at least 11,000 people in Manitou Springs, Cascade, Chipita Park and Green Mountain Falls to evacuate their homes, the Associated Press reported.

Officials also shut down the Garden of the Gods park and Pikes Peak Highway, which leads to the top of the most popular mountain in the country for climbers, the AP reported.

The fire has burned more 2,000 acres, encouraged by hot and gusty weather, according to the AP. Colorado Springs Fire Department officials said the flames reached as high as 100 feet during the night, the Denver Post reported.

The fire started Saturday afternoon, the Denver Post reported. It is not yet known what caused it.

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The US Air Force has dispatched C-130 military transport planes to help fight the fire, according to the Denver Post.

"The main objective for today is to keep the fire north of Highway 24," Waldo Canyon Fire Public Information Officer Greg Heule told the Denver Post.

"We're hoping that with additional federalized resources in here we can some progress on this the next couple of days," Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said at a morning briefing, according to the Denver Post.

According to the AP:

Colorado and other parts of the Southwest have become a tinderbox for wildfires as the region faces extremely dry or prolonged drought conditions.

The Waldo Canyon blaze is one of seven wildfires currently burning across the state, the AP reported.

One of the others, the High Park fire near Fort Collins, Colo., continues to burn, although progress had been made battling the blaze earlier in the week, 9NEWS, the NBC affiliate in Denver, reported.

More from GlobalPost: High Park Fire: Colorado wildfire now 60% contained

As of this morning, the High Park fire had burned an estimated 82,114 acres, destroyed 191 homes, killed one person and was 45 percent contained, 9NEWS reported. It is the most destructive fire in Colorado history.