More evacuations expected amid dangerous wildfires in US south-west

More Evacuations Expected Amid Dangerous Wildfires In Us South-West More Evacuations Expected Amid Dangerous Wildfires In Us South-West
Western Wildfires, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Morgan Lee and Cedar Attanasio, AP

Thousands of firefighters have battled wildfires in the US south-west as more residents prepare to evacuate in northern New Mexico amid strong winds and dangerously dry conditions.

The biggest fire in the US grew to more than 117 square miles north-east of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

High winds prevented any aerial prevention measures, and crews lost some of the containment they had established in previous days.

The rapid rate of the spread of the fire was exceeding dire predictions in some areas, incident commander Carl Schwope said.

An aircraft known as a ‘super scooper’ battles the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires in the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico (US Forest Service via AP)

“We’re in a very dangerous situation. Evacuation statuses are changing as we speak,” he warned at a briefing in Las Vegas, New Mexico, about 50 miles east of Santa Fe.


More air and ground forces were on the way, he said, to fortify the nearly 1,000 firefighters on the fire lines there. He added that winds that gusted up to 65mph were beginning to subside as nightfall approached.

There were no immediate reports of any new structures lost since the local sheriff confirmed at least 166 homes have been destroyed in north-east New Mexico’s rural San Miguel County.

The Calf Canyon Fire burns north of Las Vegas (The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

But erratic wind shifts in some of the driest conditions the region has seen in years were forecast again over Saturday, and authorities are making preparations to evacuate some residents as far north as Taos.

More than 2,000 firefighters were battling fires in Arizona and New Mexico on Friday – about half of those in north-east New Mexico, where a total of more than 187 square miles of mostly timber and brush have been charred.

Red flag warnings for extreme fire danger were in place on Friday for nearly all of New Mexico and parts of Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

A Cochiti Fire Department vehicle heads towards a plume of smoke from the Cerro Pelado Fire burning in the Jemez Mountains (The Albuquerque Journal via AP)


The fires are burning unusually hot and fast for this time of year, especially in the south-west, where experts said some timber in the region is drier than kiln-dried wood.

“We still have some fire weather to get through tonight, tomorrow and several days afterwards,” fire behaviour specialist Stewart Turner said at Friday night’s briefing in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

“It’s very important that everybody pays attention to the evacuation orders because this is a very, very serious fire – very dangerous fire behaviour out there.”

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