The forecast in the coming days will be somewhat kinder to firefighters.
Temperatures are expected to cool into the lower 90s with winds of no more than 10 mph -- a far cry from the 65-mph gusts Tuesday that whipped the flames through mountain canyons and past containment lines.
The scale of the fire is such that smoke blankets the sky 40 miles to the north, Castle Rock resident Heather Gardner said.
"It's just really devastating to see that landscape completely charred and people's homes lost," she said. "I pray for that community and the rescue workers involved in keeping everyone safe."
The inferno has been a challenge even for some of the country's top firefighters -- sometimes getting the best of them.
"We have rehearsed and practiced disasters," said Dave Rose, public information officer for El Paso County, which includes Colorado Springs. "We have never seen one like this before."
The bone-dry conditions may make the Fourth of July holiday less festive for many Coloradans. Fireworks displays in Jefferson and Douglas counties -- to the south and west of Denver -- have been canceled.
With tens of thousands of state residents out of their homes, the Denver Broncos pledged $50,000 to relief efforts for the wildfires.
"This is our home, and we need to do whatever we can to take care of our neighbors," team owner Pat Bowlen said. "If at all possible, I encourage our fans to help however they can in providing relief during this time of need."
Richard Brown, the Colorado Springs fire chief, called the Waldo Canyon Fire a "firestorm of epic proportions."
Stan and Darlene Colbert were among the last families in the evacuation zone to pull out. They waited, hoping the fire would subside, but after watching the flames from their back porch, they knew it was time to go.
The first things the couple -- married 43 years -- packed were the family photos.
"Every one of them I could find; every photo, because I can't replace those," Darlene Colbert said.
The flames came dangerously close to the Air Force Academy's main campus, burning about 10 acres of its southwest portion before it was contained, the academy said Thursday.
More than 600 families living on base and 110 dormitory residents were evacuated, and more than 600 cadets were relocated, the academy said. About 375 were released to sponsor families, and another 200 were residing in dormitories at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
The academy's powered flight, glider and parachuting operations have been called off since Saturday so the U.S. Forest Service could use runways for helicopters fighting the fires along Colorado's Front Range, according to spokesman John Van Winkle.
However, the academy's Class of 2016 -- all 1,045 cadets -- arrived as scheduled Thursday, and in-processing and basic cadet training began, the academy said.
Colorado wildfires had consumed 181,426 acres by Wednesday afternoon, according to the Colorado Division of Emergency Management.
The largest of the fires was the High Park Fire, which began June 9 and has now consumed 87,284 acres, the U.S. Forest Service said. It was 85% contained Thursday. The total number of homes burned stood at 257. An estimated $36.4 million has been spent trying to contain the blaze.