Fire crews close in around massive New Mexico wildfire

Spring Wildfires
Posted at 2:32 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 16:32:17-04

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Firefighters in New Mexico are taking advantage of diminished winds to build more fire lines and clear combustible brush near homes close to the fringes of the largest wildfire burning in the U.S.

The blaze has charred hundreds of square miles of tinder-dry forest, destroying dozens of homes and triggering the evacuation of thousands across an expansive stretch of rural northeastern New Mexico.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday said she's seeking a federal disaster declaration for the largest blaze burning in the U.S. The governor signed a request for a presidential disaster declaration while fire managers predicted the battle to protect towns in the state's northeast pine forests and mountains would become more intense later in the week.

President Joe Biden has approved the disaster declaration for areas devastated by the fire.

Grisham said 15,500 homes are evacuated while the blaze burns near towns dotting mountainsides, towering ponderosa pine forests and meadows. Around 170 homes have been destroyed, but officials expect that number to grow.

Crews are working Thursday to keep the flames from moving any closer to the town of Las Vegas and other villages along the blaze’s shifting fronts.

The fire is the result of two blazes that merged, one of which was a prescribed fire that jumped containment lines.