Firefighters are prepared for an “unprecedented extrem wind event” and near record high temperatures to fan the largest fire in the US. This has already caused extensive destruction and forced thousands of people to flee.
Forecasters in the US warn that gusts could reach 60 mph this weekend. This is fuelling the spread and destruction of wildfires in northeastern New Mexico, which has burned more than 262 sq miles in recent weeks.
Since the fire started, at least 165 homes were set on fire. Thousands more have been evacuated.
It is hoped that actions taken to stop the blaze, including clearing vegetation and digging firebreaks, will keep it from reaching Las Vegas. This is in contrast to its more well-known Nevada name.
Elmo Baca is the chairman of the Las Vegas Community Foundation. He stated: “There’s uncertainty, there’s fear about the winds affecting the fire from day-to-day.
“Once people have been evacuated from an area, they cannot go back. They are left to worry about it.”
Part of the reason for the fire’s origin can be attributed to the US Forest Service’s early April preventive work to reduce flammable bush.
It spread out of control and merged with another wildfire. The cause is unknown.
Wildfire danger has been exacerbated by long-term droughts and the warmer temperatures due to climate change.
Destructive blazes have also been experienced in the forests of Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Dave Bales, Incident Commander, stated that firefighters fighting the current blaze in northeastern New Mexico have dealt with high winds before but that the current weather could be more than five days.
He also warned that flames could be carried up a mile.
Mr Bales stated that “This is an unprecedented extreme wind event.”
Another large wildfire was burning in New Mexico, just five miles from Los Alamos National Laboratory. This is the nation’s most important nuclear weapons research laboratory.
Crews started burning vegetation before the fire to lessen its intensity.
The lab has water tankers, heavy equipment, and a helicopter. Firefighters will also be stationed at the perimeter in case of an emergency.
Environmentalists and nuclear watchdog groups have expressed concern about the storage of nuclear waste at this site.
According to lab officials, radiological and other potentially dangerous materials are kept in containers that have been designed and tested to withstand extreme environments such as heat from fire.