Due to forest fires in New Mexico and Arizona this week wind will remain a factor along with low humidity but to varying degrees depending on the day.
Many homes near America’s largest wildfire have experienced the final gust of howling winds and chaotic flames, but the New Mexico governor said Tuesday that the risk of even more destruction is high and that long-term recovery costs after the massive fire will increase.
Two more days of strong winds and dangerous dryness are forecast before relief is expected on Friday.
On Tuesday night, crews were most concerned about the possibility of a massive fire spreading east of Santa Fe further north toward rural towns and mountain resorts closer to Taos – about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from its current northern edge.
A gust of wind that justified Tuesday’s airstrikes pushed flames in that direction along the Sangre de Cristo ridge on the southern edge of the Rocky Mountains, stretching from Colorado.
The main highway north of Holman to Taos has been closed, and additional communities have been prepared for a potential evacuation.
“It’s very active. It’s a big push, a lot of energy now, “fire chief Todd Abel warned Tuesday night.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said during a briefing earlier on Tuesday that she had not received any reports of extensive damage to homes in recent days amid the latest wind that blew fires and created problems for fire brigades.
Crews tried to direct flames around houses in many small villages at the northern and southern ends of the fire – bulldozers broke fire cracks, put a sprinkler, cleared trees and raked needles. About 1,800 firefighters and support staff, including specially trained teams, were sent to put out the blaze.
The cost of fighting the fire and another minor fire that burned near the Los Alamos National Laboratory has exceeded $ 65 million.
The cost is expected to rise in light of the wind forecast for Wednesday, and Lujan Grisham said the cost of renovating homes, preventing flooding after the fire and restoring the forest charred by a major fire after its elimination is likely to be in the billions of dollars.
“When you think about rebuilding communities, it’s not a simultaneous process,” Lujan Grisham said. “So we have to think in terms of significant resources, and those resources, in my opinion, have to be largely borne by the federal government given the situation.”
Since its inception last month, a nearly 320-square-mile (830-square-kilometer) forest fire has burned about 300 buildings, including homes. Some areas are still subject to evacuation orders, but authorities on Monday began releasing some residents on the eastern flank of the fire to return home.
The fire has already declared a federal catastrophe, which is partly the result of a preventive fire staged in early April that escaped containment. The flames merged with a separate fire a couple of weeks later, and as of Tuesday the jagged perimeter stretched for more than 356 miles (573 kilometers).
Protection of the facilities was concentrated on Tuesday night around Mori and Holman, where Highway 518 north of Taos was closed. Authorities stressed that there is no immediate threat to communities around Taos, but new announcements of a potential evacuation have reached midnight to the Angel Fire ski resort east of Taos.
“Approaching Taos, Black Lake, Angel Fire, with the models we use, there is a chance that these areas will see fire,” said Abel, chief of fire operations at the Santa Fe National Forest. briefing Tuesday night.
The governor said she would challenge anyone who does not believe the federal government should bear significant responsibility.
“It is careless to consider prescribed burns during the windy season in a state that is under warning of an extreme drought,” she said.
Members of the delegation to the New Mexico Congress and others called for an investigation. While forest service staff have not yet released planning documents related to the prescribed fire, they said the forecasted weather conditions are within the project.
Meanwhile, a smaller blaze that burned in the Hemez Mountains has forced officials at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which conducts nuclear research, and the nearby city of Los Alamos to prepare for evacuation as a precaution.
Nearly 900 people battled the blaze, which on Tuesday approached $ 16 million.
High pillars of smoke from both fires could be seen for miles when the wind picked up on Tuesday afternoon.
Wind and low humidity are still a major threat to forest fires in the West as the National Weather Service has issued warnings of extreme fire danger in much of New Mexico and some Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Texas. Forecasters say New Mexico is ahead of most other recent years in the number of red flag days in April and still this month.
Crews also battled small fires elsewhere in New Mexico and Arizona.
Associated Press writer Scott Soner contributed to this report from Reno, Nevada.
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