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Villages told to evacuate as New Mexico wildfire pushes north -Breaking


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: Firefighters fight the Calf Canyon Wildfire near Las Vegas in New Mexico. It was started on May 4, 2022. Picture taken May 4, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt

By Andrew Hay

TAOS N.M. (Reuters – Two villages in New Mexico were forced to evacuate on Sunday due to strong winds pushing the biggest active wildfire in the United States. The fire was caused by centuries-old farms and ranching communities.

Residents from Holman, Chacon and other nearby communities received texts around 2:20 p.m. (2330 GMT), telling them to “Go” because wind gusts reaching up to 60 mph (97 kmh), sent fire embers out of forests into the Mora valley. Officials and residents confirmed this.

“The threat is up towards that area now because it’s burned past some areas that are lower in the valley,” said Gabriel Meléndez, a native of Mora.

Two northern New Mexico counties are warning 12,000 residents to leave the worst wildfire ever recorded in their state. This fire started in part because of a U.S. Forest Service prescribed burn.

Joshua Sloan from New Mexico Highlands University says that the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon fire is moving through a dense forest choked with dead trees and overcrowded after USFS policies since the 1960s to extinguish fires within 24 hours. He also cites court injunctions against logging dating back to mid-90s.

Climate change is causing significant snowpack loss and this area is currently experiencing the worst drought in over 500 years according to the tree rings in the Jemez Mountains.

The fire erupted in the area 60 miles west from Mora Valley and engulfed 40,000 acres (16.817 ha) Sunday. It was located within 7 miles (11km) of Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory, 5 miles (8km) away from Native American structures in Bandelier National Monument, and just five miles (8km) from Los Alamos’ nuclear weapons lab.

Hermits Peak Calf Canyon has sparked a fire that has destroyed 176,273 acres (71.335). This is an area nearly as big as the entire New York City boroughs.