Firefighters struggled on Friday to contain a giant fire that has been burning for more than a month in New Mexico, raising fears of an impending summer in the drought-stricken western United States.
The so-called “Hermit Fire” tore apart 168,000 acres at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, destroying about 170 properties and forcing the evacuation of nearly 16,000 homes.
But the fire remains only 20 percent under control.
“This is a historic fire event … this is a critical stage in the fire,” New Mexico Governor Michel Lujan Grisham said at a briefing on Friday.
“We have high temperatures and strong winds. This is the worst possible set of conditions for any fire,” she warned.
The fire started on April 6, when the “prescribed” incineration, designed to remove excess vegetation in a controlled area, escaped control due to strong winds and dry conditions.
The fire comes at the beginning of the long fire season in the American West, but is now the second largest in the history of New Mexico, after burning more than the state average for the whole year.
The National Weather Service in Albuquerque warned that windy and dry conditions are expected over the weekend and “will worsen our plight”.
US President Joe Biden this week declared a major disaster in New Mexico, unlocking federal resources, including financial aid for those affected.
Like much of the American West, New Mexico is trapped in a long drought that has left the area parched and vulnerable to wildfires.
Reservoirs have fallen to dangerously low levels, with Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir near Las Vegas, at 31 percent.
The water dropped to such a historic level that a corroded barrel containing a four-decade-old corpse was discovered in the lake earlier this week.
Lake Mead is fed by the Colorado River, where its flow has fallen by 20 percent in the last century, driven by global warming, according to a report by the US Geological Survey in 2020.
Although fires are a natural part of the climate cycle and help clear dead bushes, their scale and intensity are increasing.
Scientists say global warming, caused mainly by human activity, such as the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels, is changing weather patterns.
This prolongs droughts in some areas and provokes unusually large storms in other places.
The governor captured a wildfire in Colorado “in the blink of an eye.”
© 2022 AFP
Quote: A giant fire in New Mexico rages when drought-affected brackets in the western United States for the summer (2022, May 6) retrieved on May 8, 2022 from
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