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Waldo Canyon Fire Incident Commander: 'I Hate Wind'

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) - The Waldo Canyon Fire in the Colorado Springs has grown to 15,324 acres and destroyed an undetermined number of homes. Wind is hampering efforts of fire crews working to get the fire under control.

A firefighter from Denver said there could be as many as 300 homes burned.

There is progress on the south and east sides of the fire but the northwest corner remains an area of concern for firefighters.

"We're well aware of it. We have a lot of troops stationed in that area. We have no reports of structures involved at this time," said Incident Commander Rich Harvey. "I hate wind. I wish it would go away. The wind is obviously once again kicking up and causing problems out there."

The FBI Denver Division is working closely with local, state and federal law enforcement to determine if any of the wild land fires in Colorado resulted from criminal activity.

Teller County Wednesday morning announced new evacuation orders. The evacuations include Crystola and east edge of Woodland Park, all areas east of US 24, Baldwin and Rampart Range roads and south of Aspen Garden Way.

An evacuation shelter is being established at the Cripple Creek and Victor High School.

Tens of thousands are evacuated because of the fire, which started on Saturday but began burning homes in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood Tuesday night.

RELATED VIDEO: Wednesday Afternoon Fire Update

"This is an active fire. It's not even remotely close to being contained," said Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown Wednesday morning.

Approximately 26,000 people were evacuated on Tuesday, an unprecedented emergency action for the city.

Tuesday night new evacuations were ordered for Rockrimmon and Woodmen Valley, west and north of Woodmen Road and Interstate 25 and west and north of Rockrimmon Boulevard and Vindicator Drive. Also under evacuation orders is Pinon Valley and Pine Cliff, west and north of Garden of the Gods Road and I-25 to Centennial north to Ute Valley Park. The Air Force Academy ordered evacuations for more than 2,100 residents on its grounds.

Governor John Hickenlooper vowed Colorado will continue fighting these fires.

"Our challenge here is recovery. We'll beat this fire just like we beat High Park. There's no question in my mind. The challenge will be how quickly can we recover, how quickly can we get people back into their homes, how quickly can we get power lines restored and get an infrastructure in place so people can resume their lives and get back to work and start creating jobs," said Hickenlooper.

A pre-evacuation notice is also in effect in the southwest corner of Douglas County as of Wednesday morning due to the fire. (The specific area included in this pre-evacuation warning is bounded by the Palmer Divide Road on the south, Noe Road on the north, Spruce Mountain on the east, and Rampart Range Rd.on the west.)

"All of our people have been fighting that fire all night long. They are fighting it as we speak. And the thing that I want to highlight to you all is this is not a defensive situation to any stretch. There are countless examples of house saves. There are some homes impacted, there's no question about it. I am absolutely not prepared to release that number. We don't know the number," Brown said.

On Wednesday officials said they are working hard to keep the evacuated neighborhoods safe.

"The affected neighborhoods will be protected by our police officers both at traffic control points and by officers in vehicles," Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey said.

The Red Cross shelter at the Cheyenne Mountain High School is open. Residents can bring small caged pets and companion animals (cats & dogs) with them to the shelter. The Penrose Equestrian Center is sheltering large animals.

Waldo Canyon Fire
Waldo Canyon Fire on June 27 (credit: CBS)

Tuesday afternoon CBS4's Rick Sallinger was taken on a tour of the fire along Highway 24 west to the town of Cascade. He reported seeing trees burning along side of the road. Spotters were seen chasing embers to keep the fire spreading to the other side of the highway. One ember did.

"It had a lot of potential of starting to spread on me right when I got up there and I had the rest of my crew bumping up there with tools and packs; bladder bags with water," Bureau of Land Management firefighter Leif Larson said.

The fire's cause remains under investigation.

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