Wind-driven wildfires destroyed hundreds of structures in northern New Mexico and forced thousands to flee mountain villages as blazes burned uncharacteristically earlier this year in the south -arid western United States.
Two wildfires merged northwest of Las Vegas, New Mexico, and swept through 15 miles of forest driven by winds over 75 mph (121 km/h), destroying more than 200 buildings, it was announced state authorities.
To the northeast, a blaze about 35 miles west of Taos doubled in size to become the largest blaze in the United States, forcing the evacuation of a Boy Scout ranch and threatening several villages.
The wildfires are the most severe of nearly two dozen in the southwestern United States and have raised fears the region will experience a brutal fire year as a decades-long drought combined with abundant dry vegetation .
“We have a longer, more dangerous and more dramatic fire season ahead of us,” New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham told reporters, adding that the state had 20 active fires following the windstorm. unprecedented” on Friday.
The Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires near Las Vegas have combined to burn 42,341 acres, an area larger than Disney World in Florida. Evacuations have spread to half a dozen additional communities, including the village of Mora, the governor said.
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West of Taos, the Cooks Peak Fire nearly doubled in size to 48,672 acres, forcing the evacuation of Philmont Scout Ranch and threatening the village of Cimarron.