Hundreds of homes have been destroyed by an out-of-control Colorado wildfire that has forced more than 30,000 people to flee, officials said Thursday.
Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said a more accurate account will be available later in the day. An Associated Press aerial photo taken of one neighborhood Wednesday showed hundreds of heavily damaged or destroyed homes.
Tens of thousands of residents of Colorado's second largest city took refuge with friends or family and crammed into hotels and shelters as Army troops helped firefighters protect the U.S. Air Force Academy from the flames.
The wildfire was just one of many burning across the parched West that have destroyed structures and prompted evacuations in Montana and Utah.
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 region in decades. Colorado is also considered a key battleground state in the presidential election in November.
Shifting winds have frustrated firefighters trying to contain the 29-square-mile (75-square-kilometer) Waldo Canyon blaze in Colorado Springs.
"It won't stay in the same place," said incident commander Rich Harvey.
Gov. John Hickenlooper said he expected the president might sign a disaster declaration that would allow for more federal aid.
The full scope of the fire remained unknown. So intense were the flames and so thick the smoke that rescue workers weren't able to tell residents which structures were destroyed and which ones were still standing. Steve Cox, a spokesman for Mayor Steve Bach, said at least dozens of homes had been consumed.
"It's not windy yet this morning. That's always a good sign," fire information officer Rob Dyerberg said Thursday.
No injuries or damage to Air Force Academy campus structures were reported as the fire roared along its edge. An incoming class of more than 1,000 was still scheduled to arrive Thursday.
The FBI said it was investigating the cause of the fire.
Tom Harbour, director of fire and aviation management for the U.S. Forest Service, said there is competition for firefighting resources, including aircraft, throughout the West.
Harbour said resources are far from being exhausted.
"With over 10,000 firefighters in the Forest Service and the ability to get over 700 aircraft of all types, we're feeling cautiously confident when you look at the season as a whole," Harbour said.
Associated Press writers Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyoming, contributed to this report.