New Mexico town residents prepare to evacuate amid wildfires 2022-05-01 12:57:00


TAOS, New Mexico (Reuters) – Thousands of residents of a historic town in New Mexico’s Old West were told to prepare for a possible evacuation Sunday as high winds led the largest active wildfire in the United States through dry forests.

People in western Las Vegas, New Mexico, packed bags and kept family members close after fires broke out five miles (8 kilometers) from their homes near Interstate 25, according to local officials and fire authorities.

Firefighting official Todd Abell told a news briefing that crews had razed fire barriers in the west and north of the city of 14,000 to protect farms, cottages and United World College in Montezuma Village.

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The Calf Canyon fire has so far burned 104,000 acres (42,100 hectares), an area roughly the size of Albuquerque, the largest of dozens of southwest fires that scientists said were more widespread and arrived earlier this year due to climate change.

“We’re just breaking our teeth, there’s going to be thousands of people affected,” San Miguel County Deputy Superintendent Jesus Romero said as ash flew around his home in southern Las Vegas.

Asked if the entire city would be asked to evacuate, Romero said that could happen on Monday when the winds are expected to shift and blow to the east.

About 20 miles (32 km) north, Abel said, fire crews fought to stop fires from burning homes near the village of Ledoux or moving north into the Mora Valley with other communities dating back to the Spanish colonial era.

The fires have been burning since April 6 about 30 miles (48 km) east of Santa Fe, destroying more than 300 properties and forcing dozens of villages and settlements into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Wildfires in the United States have burned more than twice the area of ​​land this year than in the same period in 2021, and about 70% more than the 10-year average, according to the Interagency National Fire Center.

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Additional reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Will Dunham

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