New Mexico’s ‘megafire’ could more than double in size – official
Band Andrew Hay
TAOS, New Mexico, April 30 (Reuters) – A drought-driven wildfire in northern New Mexico exploded into a 100,000-acre, or 157-square-mile “megafire” on Saturday and could still more than double in size, a fire official said.
Fueled by ferocious spring winds in parched mountain forests, the Calf Canyon Fire is by far the largest and most destructive currently burning in the United States.
About 30 miles east of Santa Fe, the blaze destroyed hundreds of properties, triggered thousands of evacuations and burned Saturday just a few miles from the city of Las Vegas, New Mexico, home to 14,000 inhabitants.
“It’s already 100,000 acres. It could easily double in size, maybe even more than that,” Incident Commander Carl Schwope said during a briefing.
The blaze grew by around 50% in 24 hours as a giant column of flames crumbled on Friday evening, raining down embers and sparking new blazes. Las Vegas residents woke up to quarter-dollar-sized pieces of charred wood carpeting the city.
Officials feared another “column collapse” at any time.
“It’s a big fire and it’s all around us,” San Miguel County Executive Joy Ansley said by phone, adding that authorities are making plans in case Las Vegas is ordered to evacuate. .
Firefighters believe the western United States is facing a grim fire year, with US Department of Agriculture data showing 80% of the area is in severe drought.
Under the scenario of a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures, scientists expect wildfires in the western United States to burn twice the current area by mid-century.
More than a third of the 2,800 firefighters currently deployed across the United States were on the Calf Canyon blaze, bulldozing firebreaks to defend Las Vegas and battling ‘spot fires’ sparked by embers crawling toward villages of the Mora Valley.
So far this year, wildfires in the United States have burned more than double the area of the same period of 2021 and about 70% more than the 10-year average, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Tom Hogue)
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