(The Blaze/AP) Gaining steam over the weekend and continuing to smolder through Thursday, raging wildfires roared through neighborhoods and forced 32,000 residents of Colorado Springs to flee their homes.
The 24-square mile fire scorched the edges of the U.S. Air Force Academy on Wednesday. Thick smoke and towering flames cloaked the full scope of damage to Colorado's second-largest city.
A separate fire burning in northern Colorado has grown to 136-square miles and destroyed 257 homes.
CBS Local reports the FBI and other law enforcement are investigating what started the blaze in case it was related to criminal activity.
Check out this slideshow showing some of the top images the Blaze picked out of the devastating scene:
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CBS Local reports a firefighter saying the fires are like something you would see in a Hollywood movie:
“I’m a veteran of 20 years and it was like a movie scene,” said Denver Firefighter Lt. Mike Somma, who led a crew that battled the blaze overnight.
“The whole side of the mountain was on fire. That’s the only way I could describe it to you,” said Somma.
He said the Denver crews had one mission: save homes. Somma said they would turn on sprinkler systems and garden hoses to help quell flames and toss patio cushions away from homes to kill potential fire sources.
“One house burned to the ground, another would be standing then the next one was on fire,” said Somma.
Elsewhere in the West, wildfires in central Utah and Billings, Mont., have each destroyed dozens of homes and forced hundreds of evacuations. Another wildfire in Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest has charred about 19 square miles as of Wednesday.
President Barack Obama plans to tour the Colorado Springs area on Friday.
A White House statement said Obama "made clear that he has directed his team to remain focused on the fires." The president is expected to meet with firefighters and view the damage in Colorado. Federal support is also being provided to firefighters in Alaska, Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
Obama told the two Colorado officials to identify any other help the government can provide.
Colorado is considered one of the toss-up states that could swing the election in November to Obama or his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
If you want to learn how to help those affected by the fires, check out the Help Colorado Now website here.