Top News

Thousands of people were forced to flee when forest fires broke through New Mexico New Mexico

Wind-driven forest fires have destroyed hundreds of buildings in northern New Mexico, forcing thousands to flee mountain villages as the fires burned unusually early in the arid southwestern United States.

The two forest fires combined northwest of Las Vegas, New Mexico, through 15 miles (24 km) of wind-driven forest at over 75 mph (121 km / h), destroying more than 200 buildings, government officials said.

In the northeast, the fire about 55 miles west of Taos doubled and became the largest fire in the United States, forcing the scout ranch to evacuate and threatening several villages.

The fires are the most severe of nearly two dozen in the southwestern United States, raising concerns that the region is facing a year of brutal fires as a decade of drought combined with rich dry vegetation.

By Saturday, five counties in New Mexico were in a state of emergency after Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham issued one for Mora County. On Friday, it declared a state of emergency for the districts of Colfax, Lincoln, San Miguel and Valencia.

Today, I declared a state of emergency for the Mora District following similar statements yesterday for the Colfax, Lincoln, San Miguel and Valencia districts.

This executive order makes funding and state resources available to communities struggling with ongoing forest fires.

– Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (@GovMLG) April 23, 2022

“We have a longer, more dangerous and more dramatic fire season ahead of us,” Lujan Grisham told reporters, adding that the state has 20 active fires after Friday’s “unprecedented” windstorm.

The wind and temperatures in New Mexico eased on Saturday, but remained strong enough to keep fires going, and dozens of evacuation orders remained in place.

More than 200 buildings burned down, Lujan Grisham said, without giving details of the location or number of houses included.

She urged residents to refrain from using fireworks and burning garbage, and to evacuate when fire warnings are issued. “You have to leave.” The risks are too great, “she said.

The Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires near Las Vegas together burned 42,341 acres (171 square kilometers), an area larger than Disney’s Florida World. The evacuation has spread to half a dozen other communities, including the village of Mora, the governor said.

According to scientists, climate change has reduced winter snow cover and allowed for larger and more extreme fires earlier in the year.

West of Taos, the Cooks Peak fire nearly doubled to 48,672 acres, forcing the Philmont Scout Ranch to evacuate and threatening the village of Cimarron.

New Mexico has had the largest fires of all states since Saturday, although neighboring Arizona also had large fires, with flames stretching 100 feet (30 meters) running through rural neighborhoods near Flagstaff this week.

Elsewhere in the region, according to the National Meteorological Service, the fire hazard in the Denver area on Friday was the highest in more than a decade, due to unusual temperatures in the 1980s (26-32 ° C) combined with strong winds and very dry conditions.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to the report