Jun 28, 2012 02:39 PM EDT

Colorado Wildfires Update: Blazes Continue and President Plans a Visit


The Colorado Springs wildfires, specifically the Waldo Canyon fire, continues to brings devastation to the state as thousands of people in Colorado's second-most-populous city have been forced from their homes because of the unprecedented fire.

The wildfire, which began on Saturday, remains at just 5% contained. As of this [Thursday] morning, 18,500 acres have burned, which is up from the 13,500 reported on Wednesday. The state's largest fire, the High Park fire, is about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado, and was about 75 percent contained. More than 87,200 acres have been consumed since the fire began on June 9 and full containment is expected around July 15, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, much of the state's attention has been on the Waldo Canyon fire because it is burning in a significant tourist area with a high population.

"We now know hundreds of homes have been destroyed," Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said at a Thursday morning news conference about the Waldo Canyon fire, in the Los Angeles Times. He said he expected to soon get a fuller accounting of the blaze's destruction, which some published sources have put at 300 homes. More than 32,000 people in Colorado's second-most-populous city and its environs have been forced from their homes because of the fire.

The Federal Bureau Investigation announced on Wednesday that it would investigate the cause of the Waldo Canyon fire.

"The FBI Denver Division is working closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement to determine if any of the wildland fires resulted from criminal activity," local FBI spokesman Dave Joly wrote in an e-mail statement to The Denver Post. "FBI personnel are supporting command post operations in the fire regions and offering assistance with managing the volumes of information related to these tragic events."

"It infuriates me and it just makes my blood boil," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said at the thought of arson. "It creates a physical reaction in me ... to think that there's someone out there, because they get some kick ... there's some joy that they get (from setting a fire)."

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is planning a visit the area in Colorado on Friday to view the damage, according to the White House.

Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown called the firestorm threatening his city - in a metropolitan area of more than 650,000 people - "a monster" and said that flames were "not even remotely close to being contained."

"We have rehearsed and practiced disasters," said Dave Rose, public information officer for El Paso County, which includes Colorado Springs. "We have never seen one like this before."

"It's just really devastating to see that landscape completely charred and people's homes lost," a Castle Rock resident told CNN. "I pray for that community and the rescue workers involved in keeping everyone safe."

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