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New Mexico wildfires continue to rage as fresh fire engulfs California mansions US News

Extreme fire conditions continue to fuel massive wildfire in the north New Mexicomaking it difficult for crews to contain the largest fire in the US, which was mounting to almost 260,000 acres morning on Thursday.

The continued destruction came as a smaller fire broke out Californiadestroyed more than 20 homes, many of them multimillion-dollar mansions, in the coastal community of Laguna Niguel.

New Mexico has enjoyed an explosive start to another devastating fire season in the American west, with parched vegetation and gusty winds fanning blazing blazes for weeks.

“This fire will continue to grow,” New Mexico officials said called in an update Thursday morning, noting that more resources are being deployed to fight the fire as another red flag warning was issued later in the evening. “The weather has been unfavorable for weeks,” they said. “This will continue to lead to extreme fire behavior and rapid growth, particularly in the north.”

The California fire began Wednesday when strong ocean winds sent embers flying, igniting flames that swept through the dry oceanfront cliffs and into the community. Though conditions improved overnight, officials still recorded the fire with zero percent containment as of Thursday morning.

Residents of about 900 homes along the California coast were evacuated and one firefighter was injured, Orange County officials said. The wildfire has set fire to about 200 hectares.

Smoke from a fast-moving, wind-driven wildfire billows over a residential area in Laguna Niguel, California. Photo: Mike Blake/Reuters

Smoke from the fire choked nearby Orange County towns, and air quality officials issued an advisory by Thursday afternoon.

Orange County Fire Department chief Brian Fennessy said drought and climate change have made fires that were once easy to contain have become extremely dangerous to people and property.

The California fire was much smaller than the New Mexico fire, which has destroyed at least 300 homes and other structures since it erupted earlier last month. The fire is on track to be the largest in New Mexico history.

Rising temperatures have been driving dehydration across the west, and drought conditions are expected to worsen over the coming hot, dry weeks and months. In its latest report, released Thursday, the US Drought Monitor classified more than 40% of the West as experiencing “extreme drought,” up from about 35% last week. Almost 60% of California was also in this category, up sharply from just over 40% last week.

From New Mexico to Colorado and parts of the Midwest, forecasters on Thursday issued red flag warnings of extreme wildfire danger due to low humidity, erratic winds and warm temperatures. The same combination of weather conditions set the stage for spring wildfires in the US that were more intense than previous seasons.

In New Mexico, the fastest-moving blazes in the southern foothills of the Rocky Mountains were moving northeast and away from the region’s largest population center, Taos, a popular tourist destination 40 miles (64 km) south of the Colorado state line.

The winds have made it difficult for planes to fly to help firefighters on the ground, but some planes managed to drop protective gear on the blaze on Wednesday despite wind gusts exceeding 72 km/h (45 mph) in some areas.

A general view of the landscape with plumes of smoke from Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires filling the sky in New Mexico.
A general view of the landscape with plumes of smoke from Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires filling the sky in New Mexico. Photo: Adria Malcolm/Reuters

Some evacuation orders were relaxed along the south flank of the fire near the city of Las Vegas, New Mexico. Additional crews were deployed to join the more than 1,800 workers battling the New Mexico fire, and forecasters said weather conditions should improve on Friday.

The fire has already burned through a wooded landscape, igniting homes that have been in families for generations. Officials have predicted the number of homes burned by the fire will rise dramatically when it is safe to conduct assessments of areas that are still smoldering.

Crews were also battling a smaller fire in New Mexico near Los Alamos National Laboratory, a government nuclear research facility tapped to increase production of plutonium components for the US nuclear arsenal.

Officials and experts believe risks of large blazes in the southwest will continue into the summer monsoon. In other areas of the west, where a rain break is less likely, threats will continue to increase through the end of the year.

That’s what the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) predicted an above-average fire potential lasts until spring in areas from the high plains to the southwest. Threats will also linger further west in central Oregon and northern California this spring, only increasing there in the summer and fall. As snow cover eased, the agency also noted that historic water sources used for suppression may not be available.

“There will be wet rains in some areas, but overall this suggests there will be an active fire season,” Bill Bunting, director of forecast operations at the Noaa/NWS Storm Prediction Center, noted that the dangerous combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and aridity encourage “the rapid spread and unpredictable behavior of any fire that does start.”

“It’s just a reminder,” he said, “you can have dangerous fire conditions at any time of the year.”

New Mexico wildfires continue to rage as fresh fire engulfs California mansions US News

Source link New Mexico wildfires continue to rage as fresh fire engulfs California mansions US News

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