High winds continue to fan flames across the southwestern US, prompting evacuation orders and destroying many homes.
Firefighters in the foothills of the New Mexico Rocky Mountains are prepared to dig new firebreaks and clear brush to create more defensive lines aimed at preventing a massive forest fire to destroy more houses and dry pine forests like tinder.
the fire – the largest in the United States at this point, it has burned nearly 300 structures, including homes, commercial buildings, and barns. Monday’s count is likely to be higher as authorities have been unable to access some areas to survey damage.
The fire jumped a highway on Sunday night, gripping steep areas hard for firefighters to reach and prompting a warning for more rural village residents to attend. prepared to flee quickly.
Other Fire in New Mexico in the mountains surrounding one of the federal government’s key facilities for nuclear research prompted Los Alamos National Laboratory and community officials to prepare for possible evacuations.
Authorities stressed that there was no emergency, but the fire was about 3 miles (4.8 km) from the lab and was growing.
“If you don’t have to be at work, it’s time to prepare for telecommuting,” lab director Thom Mason told employees in a video. “Conditions can change quickly, it’s been very dry, very windy, and we have to be respectful of that risk and be prepared for what comes next.”
The development comes amid gusty winds that have complicated firefighting efforts about previous days.
Wind has fanned New Mexico fires for weeks with only brief interruptions and the latest wave of consecutive days of extremely dangerous wildfire conditions is unprecedented, forecasters said.
Nearly 1,700 firefighters have been battling the largest fire burning northeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It has charred more than 766 square kilometers (296 square miles). After battling it for nearly a month, firefighters had contained nearly half of the blaze by Monday, a feat that Operations Section Chief Todd Abel said was significant given the challenges crews have faced.
The region’s largest population center, Las Vegas, New Mexico, home to 13,000 people, was declared largely safe from burns after firefighters mostly contained the fire on that front. But thousands of people living in smaller outlying communities were still under evacuation orders.
The northern and southern flanks of the wildfire have proven more difficult to contain, with wind gusts over the weekend exceeding 50 mph (80 kph). On Monday, the wind was too strong to launch planes to help with the firefighting effort.
Planes are used to drop water directly on the flames or place retardant in the expected direction of the fire so that bulldozers and ground crews can dig firebreaks where there are no roads to act as firebreaks.
The National Interagency Fire Center has said more than 20,000 New Mexico structures were threatened by fire.
On Sunday night, authorities told residents of small villages on the northern front of the fire to evacuate, saying it was fast approaching after jumping a road.
Nationwide, three new large fires were reported over the weekend: two in Arizona and one in Texas.
Wildfires have become a year-round threat in the drought-stricken West and are moving faster and burning hotter than ever due to climate change, scientists and fire experts have said.