Strong winds could push New Mexico fire toward mountain town

Strong winds could push New Mexico fire toward mountain town

Washington, May 4 (BNA):  Martina Gonzales and her grandson watched from their front yard as aircraft disappeared into a giant plume of smoke to fight a growing wildfire that has burned hundreds of square miles, destroyed about 170 homes and threatened more destruction if winds whip, as predicted, through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

 

The fire grew overnight to 250 square miles (647 square kilometers), with containment stuck at 20% of its perimeter. Strong winds were expected to blow the fire Wednesday toward Las Vegas, population about 13,000. In one area, the fire was about a mile away.

 

Las Vegas Mayor Louie Trujillo said the heavy smoke and noise from aircraft battling the fire were horrifying at times but sought to assure residents that crews were working tirelessly, reports AP.

 

On Tuesday, bulldozers scraped fire lines on the outskirts and firefighters conducted burns to clear vegetation while airplanes and helicopters dropped fire retardant as a second line of defense in preparation for the intense winds expected over the weekend. Meanwhile, fire engines and crews remained stationed Wednesday on the edge of town.

 

New Mexico has been swept by waves of hot, dry and windy weather. The latest forecast had it in the bull’s-eye again.

Wildfires have become a year-round threat in the drought-stricken West — moving faster and burning hotter than ever due to climate change, scientists and fire experts say. Fire officials also point to overgrown and unhealthy forested areas where built-up vegetation can worsen wildfire conditions.

AHN

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