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Waldo Canyon Fire: Wildfire Near Colorado Springs Grows, Moves Toward Homes; 'Highest Priority Fire' In The Nation (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

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Houses in the Mountain Shadows area of Colorado Springs, Colorado ignite due to the Waldo Canyon fire on Wednesday, June 26, 2012. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Jerilee Bennett)
Houses in the Mountain Shadows area of Colorado Springs, Colorado ignite due to the Waldo Canyon fire on Wednesday, June 26, 2012. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Jerilee Bennett)

The Waldo Canyon Fire, burning near Manitou Springs, surged anew on Tuesday, moving quickly toward homes in the Cedar Heights subdivision. The residents of those homes are among the nearly 6,000 people still evacuated from Sunday when nearly 11,000 people were evacuated when the fire first broke out. The fire has now consumed 6,200 acres.

As of Tuesday evening, 32,000 additional people have been evacuated including one-third of the households on Air Force Academy grounds.

As nightfall approached on Tuesday, houses were consumed by flames. An unknown number of homes have already been destroyed.

Ash rained down as I-25 was jammed with evacuees and firefighting equipment. Twitter erupted with photos, comments and thoughts for those who may live or have loved-ones that live near the explosive blaze. Witnesses described the blaze as an "apocalypse".

Due to the aggressive expansion of the fire, the pre-evacuation area was expanded on Tuesday for some areas near Woodland Park. Highway 24 is closed west of Colorado Springs and fire officials warned residents near U.S. 24 and the El Paso/Teller County line to be prepared to evacuate, The Denver Post reports.

Around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning the blaze began burning aggressively, according to 7News, and is now reportedly the highest priority fire in the nation, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Steve Segin said.

Fox31 reports that the fire has become a high priority, not because of its size, but because of the population it could affect.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reported 200-foot-flames near Cedar Heights this morning with flames only 200 yards away from homes.

The Haines Index -- a scale of 1 to 6 (6 being the worst) that firefighters use to rank fire growth potential in a region -- is at level "6" again Tuesday and into Wednesday, the same levels reached during last weekend's extreme fire growth.

Record heat, high winds and low humidity are making this fire a difficult battle for firefighters. "Monday was a tough day... tougher than Sunday," fire information officer Greg Heule said to 9News. "Ninety degrees, 25 to 30 mph gusts. No cloud cover at all."

High heat over the weekend produced a surge of new fires now burning throughout Colorado and also provided fuel and devastating growth conditions for the fires already burning. A total of ten major fires were burning over the weekend, all part of the worst wildfire season in a decade.

Approximately 600 firefighters are on the scene battling the blaze, according to InciWeb.org.

Residents interested in having their phone number added to the "reverse 911" for evacuation notices, are asked to go to elpasoteller911.org to register.

LOOK: Map of the Waldo Canyon Fire

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Photos of the Waldo Canyon Fire
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