28 June 2012
Last updated at 17:35
A growing wildfire in the US state of Colorado has forced more than 32,000 people to flee their homes. The Waldo Canyon fire leapt a defensive perimeter and advanced on the city of Colorado Springs.
Firefighters worked without stopping to contain the blaze but the fire more than doubled in size overnight, burning more than 24 sq miles (62 sq km) of land by Wednesday morning, officials said.
Colorado Springs officials said on Thursday morning that hundreds of homes had been destroyed in the blaze.
"People are freaking out," Kathleen Tillman told the Denver Post newspaper. "You are driving through smoke. It is completely pitch black, and there is tons of ash dropping on the road."
Dry conditions and nearly a week of temperatures over 38C (100F) have contributed to the devastating fires.
During the evacuation people were seen holding T-shirts and bandanas over their mouths to avoid breathing in smoke.
Smoke from the Waldo Canyon fire also impeded evacuation efforts by clogging major roads near Colorado Springs.
Firefighters in the state also battled other major conflagrations on Tuesday, including the Flagstaff fire, near Boulder.
Some 800 firefighters are battling the Waldo Canyon fire. They sleep rough in order to stay near the site - and to remain mobile in case they need to evacuate.
Fires have burned more than 131,000 acres in Colorado, according to the Rocky Mountain Co-ordination Center, a US government agency.
"It was like looking at the worst movie set you could imagine," Governor John Hickenlooper said. "It's almost surreal. You look at that, and it's like nothing I've seen before."
Wildfires are also burning in the western US states of Utah, Wyoming, and Montana, stoked by high temperatures and strong winds. Here, a fire in western Wyoming spread from about 300 acres (121 hectares) to 2,000 acres because of gusting winds, and remains uncontained.