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New Mexico governor warns of ‘severe’ weekend fires


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New Mexico’s governor warned residents Friday ahead of what is expected to be a historic and dangerous weekend for fires.

Speaking to reporters, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and officials said there would be high temperatures and extreme winds.

“This is the worst possible set of conditions for any fire. I’ll say it again: this is the worst possible set of conditions for this fire,” she said, calling the situation “serious.”

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The governor encouraged people still in mandatory evacuation zones to leave as soon as possible.

Federal and state agencies noted that widespread critical to extreme fire weather in drought-stricken New Mexico was likely Saturday and Sunday, and possibly through Wednesday.

As personnel – on the ground and in the air – made progress on the fires in the state last week, many families have already been left homeless and thousands of residents have been evacuated.

The Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak complex — one of the largest fires in the southwest state — spanned 170,665 acres on Saturday and was 21% contained.

The start of the Hermits Peak Fire was attributed, in part, to a preventative fire initiated by the Forest Service in early April to reduce flammable vegetation; the fire spun out of control, merging with the Calf Canyon Fire.

1,422 personnel were battling the blazes and the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reported the complex as one of six blazes in the state.

Another fire was approaching Los Alamos National Laboratory, which is one of the nation’s premier facilities for nuclear research and future production of plutonium components for nuclear weapons.

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However, lab officials said Friday that radiological and other potentially hazardous materials are stored in containers designed and tested to withstand extreme environments, including the heat of a fire.

President Biden on Wednesday approved a disaster declaration for people in Colfax, Lincoln, Mora, San Miguel and Valencia counties.

Lujan Grisham also previously signed emergency declarations in several endangered counties.

Fueled by similar conditions, the NIFC reports nearly 2,000 square miles have burned nationwide this year.

Fox Weather reported Friday that an early-season heat wave is expected from Texas south and into the Midwest next week.

Southwest winds are expected to move over the Sierra Madre mountain range and warm, according to Fox Weather meteorologist Nick Kosir.

Kosir said Roswell, New Mexico could see a potential record temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

The US Drought Monitor showed, on a map published Thursday, that 91.09% of the West experiencing moderate to exceptional drought.

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Wildfires have become a year-round threat in the region.

Scientists and fire experts say they are moving faster and burning more than ever due to climate change.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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