A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for 1,000 homes in the north of Colorado Springs, and about 2,000 more homes in the city were under a voluntary evacuation order. Authorities urged residents to leave their homes quickly if they were ordered to evacuate.
The Waldo Canyon fire destroyed 346 homes in the Colorado Springs area last year, making it then the most destructive Colorado wildfire on record. That fire killed two people and forced about 35,000 more to evacuate.
The U.S. Air Force Academy, located immediately north of Colorado Springs, announced Friday morning that it has opened its Emergency Family Assistance control center to help area residents affected by the growing fire.The fire has not yet crossed the Colorado Springs city limits, but officials said that erratic winds and the sheer size of the blaze makes it highly unpredictable.
"We're not confident that if the winds changed and pushed the fire to any one of our boundaries that it could be held," Maketa said.
A separate wildfire in the state, the Royal Gorge fire, shut down the historic Royal Gorge Bridge and a surrounding amusement park, and caused the evacuation of 900 inmates from the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility.
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That fire destroyed 48 structures surrounding the bridge, which stretches 950 feet above the Arkansas River and is located 15 miles from Cañon City.
"We've see a lot of pictures of the damage, but it's nothing that's not recoverable," Fremont County Commissioner Debbie Bell told the Cañon City Daily Record. "Fremont County and Cañon City are still strong and viable. We are going to survive this.
The Big Meadows fire in Rocky Mountain National Park was reported to have spread over 333 acres by late Thursday, according to NBC News affiliate KUSA. That fire was in a remote area and did not threaten any residences or communities.
Isolated afternoon thunderstorms in the Colorado Springs region could complicate efforts by 750 firefighters to tame the raging Black Forest fire.
The National Weather Service warns that storms could develop around noon and the threat of lightning and high gusting winds will exist into the evening.
In fact, those winds could gust into the 40-50 mph range, creating havoc on the fire line. Even worse, the storms are not expected to produce any significant rain that would help smother the 3-day-old blaze.
—By Matthew DeLuca, NBC News