Wildfires moved in on some of Colorado's most popular summer tourist destinations over the weekend, demolishing nearly two dozen homes near Rocky Mountain National Park and emptying hotels and campsites.
A wildfire near Colorado Springs erupted and grew out of control to more than three square miles early on Sunday, prompting the evacuations of more than 11,000 residents and an unknown number of tourists.
And on Saturday, a blaze destroyed 21 structures near the mountain community of Estes Park, where many visitors stay while visiting the national park.
Half the nation's firefighting fleet is now battling fires in Colorado, said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. He said military support in the form of C-130 military transport planes from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs would begin assisting.
With eight wildfires burning, including a fire that 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.
All of this came just a week before Independence Day on July 4, 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.
Summer travellers have seen some of their favourite sites closed to the public, obscured by smoke and haze.
Plumes of grey and white smoke poured from the mountains on Sunday, obscuring at times Pikes Peak, the most-summited high-elevation mountain in the nation and inspiration for the song America The Beautiful. Winds were pushing smoke away from Colorado Springs, but residents and tourists watched nervously as haze wrapped around the famed peak.
The wildfire near Rocky Mountain National Park destroyed holiday cabins and closed the most commonly used entrance to the park. Clouds of smoke blew toward the 102-year-old Stanley Hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining.
Elsewhere in the West, firefighters made progress against wildfires in Utah, New Mexico and California.