May 2, 2022 - Health

Northern New Mexico wildfire forces more evacuations

Satellite imagery from May 1 of the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak wildfire that continues to burn northeast of Santa Fe and approximately 12 miles northwest of Las Vegas, N.M. Photo: Maxar Technologies

Wildfires driven by strong winds continued to threaten northern New Mexico, forcing thousands to evacuate.

Driving the news: The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire, which began as two fires that later merged, had burned 120,653 acres east of Santa Fe as of Monday afternoon. The blaze was about 20% contained, according to data from InciWeb, an interagency website that tracks wildfires.

  • The fire, which is expected to continue growing, is on track to become one of New Mexico's most destructive wildfires, according to ABC News.
  • The smaller Cerro Pelado fire burning west of Santa Fe reached 17,885 acres and was only 10% contained by Monday afternoon.

The big picture: Residents of the small New Mexico city of Las Vegas braced for evacuations on Monday as the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires expanded, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

  • The Luna and Cinder areas of Las Vegas were ordered to evacuate early Monday morning, while the Creston and Bibb areas were told to prepare to evacuate at a moment's notice, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
  • The National Guard transported students from United World College, who had been evacuated to Las Vegas from Montezuma on Friday, to an emergency shelter near Pecos, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
  • The Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas also began evacuating patients on Monday morning, the New Mexico Department of Health said.
  • So far, the northeastern New Mexico fire has damaged or destroyed 172 homes and at least 116 structures, officials said, according to the AP.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Andrew Freedman: New Mexico, like the West overall, is mired in a long-term, intense drought. As of the last week of April, 98% of the state was in "moderate" to "exceptional" drought conditions. The dry conditions, combined with several intense wind events have led to several long-lasting, large fires in the state.

  • Human-caused climate change, along with other factors, is causing a dramatic increase in the occurrence of large wildfires across the West and Southwest.
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