High winds, warm temperature to worsen US wildfires

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Roughly 300 structures have been destroyed in the US state of New Mexico as massive wildfires are feared to be strengthened by high winds, dry air and warmer temperature in the coming days, authorities said.

The Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires have burned nearly 66,000 acres of land so far and only 37 per cent had been contained, the state’s fire department said in its latest update

When wind-fanned flames reach heights of more than 5 feet, crews can no longer attack the fire aggressively at its edges and must move farther away to a more defensive posture, Xinhua news agency quoted Mike Johnson, a spokesman for the incident management team overseeing the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires, as saying.

Another large fire, the Cerro Pelado Fire, which started one week ago and just 7 miles east of the village of Jemez Springs, also in northwestern part of the state, is burning in ponderosa pine and mixed conifer trees and brush with only 15 per cent contained.

Three homes were lost in the fire and 7,245 acres had been burnt, according to the state’s fire department.

On Thursday afternoon, a new blaze, named the Freelove Fire, started on the western side of the Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Freelove Canyon area.

Earlier this week, a 10-acre wildfire was reported on Alamo Navajo Indian Reservation, about four miles east of Alamo.

In Ruidoso, the McBride Fire, which destroyed 207 homes earlier this month, was 95 per cent contained, while the accompanying Nogal Canyon Fire was fully doused, local media reported.

More than 20 wildfires burned in at least 16 of the state’s 33 counties last week, bolstered by gusty winds and drought conditions, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said on Saturday.

Northern New Mexico was expected to get winds picking up to more than 40 mph near the fires, said Jennifer Shoemake, the National Weather Service said.

Wildfires have already burned more than 173,000 acres across the state so far this year, more than the figures in seven of the last eight years, according to the latest data from the Southwest Coordination Center.

Wildfire season in the region normally starts in May or June but this year is dangerously early.

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