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Vicious wildfires spread to Colo. tourist centers

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Wildfires moved in on some of Colorado’s most popular summer tourist destinations over the weekend, destroying nearly two dozen homes near Rocky Mountain National Park and emptying hotels and campgrounds at the base of Pikes Peak.

A wildfire near Colorado Springs erupted Saturday and grew out of control to more than 3 square miles early Sunday, prompting the evacuation of more than 11,000 residents and an unknown number of tourists. On Saturday, a blaze destroyed structures near the mountain community of Estes Park, where many visitors stay while visiting the park. The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday that 22 homes and 2 outbuildings had been burned.

The two fires are among eight burning in Colorado a week before the Fourth of July, a key time for family vacations to national parks and other destinations. A statewide ban on open campfires and private fireworks has been in place for more than a week.

With Colorado midway through its worst wildfire season in a decade, travelers have seen some of their favorite sites closed to the public, obscured by smoke and haze.

Plumes of gray and white smoke poured from the mountains Sunday, obscuring at times Pikes Peak.

Half the nation’s firefighting fleet is now battling fires in Colorado, said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. He said C-130 military transport planes from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs would begin assisting on Monday.

One fire has scorched more than 118 square miles and destroyed at least 191 homes.

near Fort Collins, Colorado is having its worst wildfire season in a decade.

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