Crews were making progress in stopping the spread of the nation’s biggest wildfire on Monday, the fourth consecutive day of warnings about extreme fire conditions in northern New Mexico.
The nearly 8-week-old fire was surrounded by isolation lines cut and scraped in half of its perimeter, covering 493 square miles of wooded mountains and hills east of Santa Fe.
Nearly 3,000 firefighters and other personnel were assigned to the fire, the largest in New Mexico’s recorded history.
Red flag warnings were issued from Saturday to Monday due to high winds and low humidity, but crews backed by bulldozers and planes that throw water until Monday at noon could jump into hot spots and allow only minimal growth, they said. officials.
As forecasts say the weather is expected to improve from Tuesday, fire officials say they are reducing the frequency of evening meetings broadcast live to “community meetings” from daily to three times a week.
“This change is a direct result of the positive progress that firefighters have made in limiting this fire and limiting the growth of the fire,” officials said in a statement.
In another reflection of the gains made to check the increase of the fire, San Miguel County on Saturday lifted the evacuation orders for several areas on the western flank of the fire and downgraded the pre-evacuation warnings in others.
Thunderstorms could begin in the area starting Wednesday night and ending on Friday, said meteorologist Bruno Rodriguez. However, “we do not expect a widespread and humid rain with it.”
Initial estimates say the fire destroyed at least 330 homes, but state officials expect the number of homes and other structures that burned to increase to more than 1,000 as more assessments are made.
The fire started in early April, as a result of the prescribed burns, which either controlled or smoked for months before bursting into flames with drier and warmer weather.
Most of the major fires so far this spring have occurred in Arizona and New Mexico, a region where many firefighters have described forests as “ripe and ready to burn” because of a long-lasting mega-drought. decades and the warm and windy conditions caused by climate change.
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