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Thousands flee Colorado wildfires

Thousands of residents have been evacuated and dozens of homes destroyed by three Colorado wildfires fuelled by hot temperatures, gusty winds and thick, bone-dry forests.

Nearly 1,000 inmates at a medium-security prison were also evacuated.

Sheriff's officials tallied 92 homes destroyed by a fire north-east of Colorado Springs, with five more homes partially damaged.

Wildfires also were burning in New Mexico, Oregon and California, where a smokejumper was killed fighting one of dozens of lightning-sparked fires.

Crews were so busy battling wildfires across the west that the US Forest Service announced it was mobilising two Defence Department cargo planes to drop slurry on the blazes.

Such action cannot be taken unless all of the Forest Service's contracted tankers are already in use.

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