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Victims fill shelters as wildfire fight continues
A large plume of smoke rises from Ute Pass in the direction of Woodland Park, Colo., early Wednesday. MCT photo

Victims fill shelters as wildfire fight continues

Jun 28, 2012 - The Associated Press

More than 30,000 residents have been displaced by the blaze in Colorado Springs.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Fire crews fought to save the U.S. Air Force Academy and residents begged for information on the fate of their homes Wednesday after a night of terror sent thousands of people fleeing a raging Colorado Springs wildfire.

More than 30,000 have been displaced by the fire, including thousands who frantically packed up belongings Tuesday night after it barreled into neighborhoods in the foothills west and north of Colorado's second-largest city. With flames looming overhead, they clogged roads shrouded in smoke and flying embers, their fear punctuated by explosions of bright orange flame that signaled yet another house had been claimed.

"The sky was red, the wind was blowing really fast and there were embers falling from the sky," said Simone Covey, a 26-year-old mother of three who fled an apartment near Garden of the Gods park and was staying at a shelter. "I didn't really have time to think about it. I was just trying to keep my kids calm."

Wilma Juachon sat under a tree at an evacuation center, wearing a mask to block the smoke. A tourist from California, she was evacuated from a fire near Rocky Mountain National Park last week and, now, from her Colorado Springs hotel.

"I said I hope it never happens again, and guess what?" Juachon said.

Shifting winds challenged firefighters trying to contain the 29-square-mile Waldo Canyon blaze and extinguish hot spots inside the city's western suburbs. Winds were calmer Wednesday night.

Some 3,000 more people were evacuated to the west of the fire, Teller County authorities said Wednesday, and Teller County courts were closed through Thursday.

Meanwhile, the White House said President Barack Obama will tour fire-stricken areas of Colorado on Friday and thank firefighters battling some of the worst fires to hit the American West in decades.

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