Wildfires force thousands to flee


DENVER – A fast-growing wildfire in Colorado forced 11,000 people from their homes at least briefly on Sunday and threatened popular summer camping grounds beneath Pikes Peak, whose vistas helped inspire the patriotic tune America the Beautiful.

Live summit video from the 14,115ft (4,302m) peak showed plumes of dark smoke billowing in the air, and a cog railway that ferries tourists up the side of the famous mountain was shut down because of the wildfires. The blaze in the Pike National Forest, known as the Waldo Canyon Fire, has consumed about 2,500 acres since Saturday and triggered evacuation orders for 11,000 people from Colorado Springs and nearby towns, fire officials said.

“This is a very, very volatile situation,” said emergency worker Rob Deyerberg at the fire joint information centre. The blaze was just one of 20 uncontrolled fires raging in the US at the weekend, mostly in the west, stoked by wind and triple-digit temperatures in some areas. A fresh blaze in neighbouring Utah forced an estimated 1,500 people from their homes in that state, officials said.

Of those evacuated in Colorado, about 6,200 people were cleared from Manitou Springs, which is often used as a base for travel to Pikes Peak, a fire department spokesman said. That evacuation order was later lifted on Sunday evening as winds calmed and stopped driving flames in that direction, while others remained in place.

Authorities also ordered residents to leave Green Mountain Falls, Chipita Park and Cascade, according to the fire incident command. – (Reuters)