Rapid growth of New Mexico wildfire prompts new evacuation orders

ABC News

(SANTA FE, N.M.) — New mandatory evacuation orders have been issued in parts of New Mexico due to the rapid growth of a massive wildfire east of Santa Fe.

Since merging into one blaze a week ago, the Calf Canyon and Hermit’s Peak fires have burned 97,064 acres as of Saturday morning — a growth of over 30,000 acres in 24 hours, according to updates from state fire officials.

The blaze, which is primarily impacting San Miguel and Mora counties, is 32% contained with over 1,000 firefighters responding.

High wind speeds on Friday caused rapid fire spread east toward Las Vegas and south across Gallinas Canyon, fire officials said.

“It appears that part of the fire that had continued to grow through the night collapsed and sent a lot of embers out and caused some significant fire growth to the south,” Jason Coil, an operations section chief for a Southwest incident management team, said during a briefing Saturday.

Several areas in the south are now in mandatory evacuation status amid the rapid fire growth. Officials in San Miguel and Mora counties warned that the “emerging situation remains extremely serious, and that failure to evacuate could be fatal.”

Fire officials expect higher temperatures, lower relative humidity and wind conditions to make for a very active fire day Saturday.

“Today we’re supposed to get southwest winds… Tomorrow stronger, more southerly winds,” Coil said. “So there’s gonna be a big emphasis today to construct and hold this line and make sure that we do everything we can to protect structures within the perimeter.”

The fire danger continues throughout parts of the Southwest this weekend, with strong, gusty winds amid persistent dry conditions in the region. Red flag warnings are in effect from Nevada to New Mexico.

Several large wildfires continue to burn from the Texas Panhandle to Arizona, most of which are in New Mexico.

The widespread, relentless drought continues to provide ample dry fuels for fires to spread, with little relief in sight for the foreseeable future for a large swath of the drought zones. More than two-thirds of New Mexico is now facing extreme drought conditions, while the exceptional drought area has more than doubled in size over the past week, encompassing more than 15% of the state.

ABC News’ Dan Peck contributed to this report.

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