COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Wildfires moved in on some of Colorado’s most popular summer tourist destinations over the weekend, destroying nearly two dozen homes near Rocky Mountain National Park and emptying hotels and campgrounds at the base of Pikes Peak.

A wildfire near Colorado Springs erupted Saturday and grew to more than 3 square miles early Sunday, prompting the evacuation of more than 11,000 residents and an unknown number of tourists.

On Saturday, a blaze razed structures near the mountain town of Estes Park, where many tourists stay while visiting the park. The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday that 22 homes and two outbuildings had been burned.

The two fires are among eight burning in Colorado a week before the Fourth of July, 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.

“We’re used to flooding and tornadoes, nothing like this,” said Amanda Rice, who recently moved to the area from Rock Falls, Ill. Rice, her husband, four children and dog left a Manitou Springs hotel late Saturday.

Scared when she saw flames, Rice took her family to the evacuation center before being told to go.”It was just this God-awful orange glow. It was surreal. It honestly looked like hell was opening up,” Rice said Sunday.

With Colorado midway through its worst wildfire season in a decade, travelers have seen some of their favorite sites closed to the public, obscured by smoke and haze. Some travelers were awakened with evacuation orders.

Gray and white smoke poured from the mountains Sunday, obscuring at times Pikes Peak, the most-summited high-elevation mountain in the nation and inspiration for the song “America The Beautiful.” Winds pushed smoke away from Colorado Springs, but residents and tourists watched nervously as haze wrapped around the peak.

Also Sunday, a brushfire near Elbert, about 50 miles southwest of Denver, spread to about 60 acres, forcing the evacuation of about 100 residents.

Half the nation’s firefighting fleet is now battling fires in Colorado, said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. He said C-130 military transport planes from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs would begin assisting today.

With eight wildfires burning — including a two-week-old fire that has scorched more than 118 square miles and destroyed 191 homes near Fort Collins — Colorado is having its worst wildfire season in a decade.