A fast-moving wildfire near Colorado Springs forced as many as 32,000 residents to be evacuated on Tuesday, as the blaze—fueled by 65 mph winds—jumped a perimeter set by firefighters trying desperately to contain it.
The Waldo Canyon fire—which was first spotted Saturday near Pikes Peak—doubled in size overnight to more than 24 square miles, according to the Associated Press.
The blaze has destroyed an unknown number of homes, caused roads to be closed and shut down part of the U.S. Air Force Academy. About 2,100 residents of the academy's campus were told to evacuate on Tuesday.
[How to help: Colorado wildfires]
No deaths or injuries have been reported.
Fire officials said the fire was just 5 percent contained, and dry, searing triple-digit heat in Colorado was not helping.
"This is a firestorm of epic proportions," Colorado Springs Fire chief Richard Brown said at a news conference late Tuesday.
"From the vantage point of a command post about 10 miles from the path of advancing flames," Reuters said, "the entire community of Mountain Shadows, a northwest subdivision, appeared to be enveloped in an orange glow after dark."
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who surveyed the fire from the air, said: "It was like looking at the worst movie set you could imagine--it's almost surreal. You look at that, and it's like nothing I've seen before."
Hickenlooper added: "This is the worst fire season in the history of Colorado."
Local residents have taken to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr to post photos of the towering flames and billowing smoke.
[Slideshow: Readers' photos of the Colorado wildfires]
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. Overall, four people have died due to wildfires in the state this year.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized the use of federal funds to fight the Colorado fires, according to MSNBC.
On Monday, 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.