Colorado wildfires have forced the closure of Rocky Mountain National Park. These photos show orange skies, towering smoke.

Joel Shannon, USA TODAY
·2 min read

Wildfires continue to rage in Colorado, filling the sky with choking smoke, threatening water sources and creating apocalyptic scenes reminiscent of the orange skies produced by September's wildfires on the West Coast.

The sky has been gray and the sun hazy for much of September and October across parts of the state. In the northern Colorado city of Fort Collins, Glen Akins said the smoke has gotten thick and dark enough that streetlights have turned on during the day.

Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday expressed concern that some residents who may be sick with COVID-19 are attributing coughs, sore throats and other symptoms to the poor air quality.

Colorado wildfires: Rocky Mountain National Park closes, tourist town evacuates after fire erupts

“We do worry that the impact on respiratory conditions from the fires could mask the spread of COVID,” Polis said. “The early symptoms of COVID look a lot like breathing bad air for a period of hours and then, of course, the difference is, in some cases, COVID significantly worsens over the next few days."

That comes as the rapidly growing East Troublesome Fire prompted Rocky Mountain National Park to completely close on Wednesday night. That fire has quickly spread, and is now the second largest in Colorado history.

Normally, snow helps tamp down the devastation by this time of year, but drought across Colorado and warming temperatures have dragged out the season, fire scientist Jennifer Balch said.

“We don’t see October fires that get this large,” she said.

Photos taken over the past week show the continuing impact of the fires, including the Cameron Peak Fire, the largest in the state's history:

Jessy Ellenberger took this photo from the deck of her home north of Granby, Colo., just before sunset on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Jessy Ellenberger took this photo from the deck of her home north of Granby, Colo., just before sunset on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Smoke obscures the sun as fire approaches a ridge along Highway 36 as several wildfires burn in the state Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Smoke obscures the sun as fire approaches a ridge along Highway 36 as several wildfires burn in the state Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Smoke from wildfires rises in the background, Thursday, Oct. 22, near Granby, Colorado.
Smoke from wildfires rises in the background, Thursday, Oct. 22, near Granby, Colorado.
Smoke rises from mountain ridges as a wildfire burns while buses sit idle at the high school Thursday, Oct. 22, in Granby, Colorado.
Smoke rises from mountain ridges as a wildfire burns while buses sit idle at the high school Thursday, Oct. 22, in Granby, Colorado.
Smoke rises from mountain ridges as a wildfire burns Thursday, Oct. 22, near Granby, Colorado.
Smoke rises from mountain ridges as a wildfire burns Thursday, Oct. 22, near Granby, Colorado.
The East Troublesome Fire exploded to 30,000 acres Wednesday.
The East Troublesome Fire exploded to 30,000 acres Wednesday.
Flames work their way along a ridge near a road block as the Cameron Peak Fire burns outside Estes Park, Colo. on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.
Flames work their way along a ridge near a road block as the Cameron Peak Fire burns outside Estes Park, Colo. on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.
The East Troublesome Fire has exploded, causing the closure of Rocky Mountain National Park and the evacuation of Grand Lake.
The East Troublesome Fire has exploded, causing the closure of Rocky Mountain National Park and the evacuation of Grand Lake.
A helicopter carries water to fight the Cameron Peak Fire in Fort Collins, Colo. on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020.
A helicopter carries water to fight the Cameron Peak Fire in Fort Collins, Colo. on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020.
Smoke from the Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado history, fills the air in a valley near Masonville, Colo. on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.
Smoke from the Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado history, fills the air in a valley near Masonville, Colo. on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.
Lorri Provow of Masonville took this photo of a smokenado behind the Masonville Post Office on Oct. 17, 2020.
Lorri Provow of Masonville took this photo of a smokenado behind the Masonville Post Office on Oct. 17, 2020.

Contributing: Miles Blumhardt and Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Colorado wildfires: Photos show orange skies, towering smoke