New Mexico wildfire doubles in size, more towns evacuated

·2-min read
New Mexico wildfire doubles in size, more towns evacuated

Wildfires in New Mexico have exploded across rural areas near the cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

In the space of a week, the combined Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire has grown from 80 square miles to more than 180 square miles, east of Santa Fe.

On Monday, mandatory evacuations were expanded to more towns surrounding the blaze with high winds expected to spread the blaze further.

On Sunday evening the fire’s perimeter was 30 per cent contained, according to InciWeb, a government fire database.

The fire is expected to grow this week with high winds pushing the flames into new territory northeast by Tuesday and southeast toward Las Vegas by Wednesday, according to InciWeb.

Mandatory evacuations are in place for communities south, east and north of the fire, including communities immediately surrounding Las Vegas, a city of 13,000 people.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that around 160 homes have been destroyed by the blaze so far. No fatalities have yet been reported.

North of Albuquerque, the Cerro Pelado fire grew from 18 square miles early last week to around 28 square miles by Sunday evening. That fire is also expected to spread over the next few days.

Last month two people died in the McBride Fire in southern New Mexico, near Alamogordo, public officials said.

The 2022 wildfire season in the US Southwest, which normally peaks from May to July, has gotten off to an early start.

The Tunnel Fire in neighbouring Arizona spread to over 30 square miles outside of Flagstaff, prompting evacuations in April.

People get ready to evacuate the area near the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire with their horses (REUTERS)
People get ready to evacuate the area near the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire with their horses (REUTERS)

In southern Nebraska, in the country’s central plains, the Road 702 Fire burned across 68 square miles last week. A retired fire chief involved in operations was killed, and 15 other firefighters injured, according to AP.

As of 29 April over 1,700 square miles have burned in wildfires across the country, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, the highest number since 201 and higher than the ten-year average of around 1,000 square miles.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency late last month in four counties in response fires across the state.

Wildfires around the world are expected to increase in both frequency and intensity as the climate crisis deepens, according to a recent UN report.

The American Southwest, already an arid environment, has faced extended drought conditions for over twenty years — helping to spur prime fire conditions. The climate crisis is likely to exacerbate both aridity and higher temperatures in the region.

Currently, 95 per cent of New Mexico is in “severe drought” conditions, according to the federal government’s drought monitor.

At the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fires, though high humidity is thought to be suppressing the fire to a degree, InciWeb reports that “fuels are fully available due to lack of winter precipitation and unseasonably warm, dry, windy conditions.”

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