Smoke blankets the view as authorities battle the nearby Hermits Peak in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Reuters
Crespin left her home in Las Vegas, New Mexico, because smoke from the fire wasn't good for her asthma, her children were growing concerned and other family members who live nearby were making plans to leave.
When her daughter showed up to take her to Albuquerque on Monday, fire crews were cutting down trees, raking pine needles and spraying water on properties in the area near her home. She grabbed clothes, photos and essential documents.
"It’s awful. It scares you,” Crespin said as she was being driven away from her hometown. "You don’t know when it’s going to get to the houses.”
The sky becomes dark as smoke from the Calf Canyon Fire burning in Las Vegas, New Mexico. AP
Even though no evacuations were ordered in the town of 13,000, the blaze that has charred 217 square miles (562 square kilometres) in New Mexico’s pine-covered mountainsides had prompted some residents to flee the community. It also led to an evacuation of the state’s psychiatric hospital.
Fire crews battled on several fronts to keep the fire, the largest wildfire burning in the US, from pushing into more populated areas as it fed on the state’s drought-parched landscape. Authorities were encouraged by a forecast for Tuesday of improving humidity and shifting winds. Still the blaze is expected to keep growing, putting it on track to possibly be one of the largest and most destructive in the state’s recorded history.
Wildfires have become a year-round threat in the drought-stricken West and they are moving faster and burning hotter than ever due to climate change, scientists and fire experts say. In the last five years, California for example has experienced the eight largest wildfires in state history, while Colorado saw a destructive blaze tear through suburban neighborhoods last December.
A satellite image shows a natural colour closer view of fire lines of Hermits Peak wildfire, New Mexico. Reuters
The fire in northeastern New Mexico ballooned in size Sunday, prompting authorities to issue new evacuation orders for the small town of Mora and other villages.
Residents in some outlying neighborhoods of the town of Las Vegas were told to be ready to leave their homes as smoke choked the economic hub for the farming and ranching families who have lived for generations in the rural region. No evacuations had been ordered within the city as of Monday evening.