Source: Wyatt – NwoReport
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed emergency declarations as 20 wildfires continued to burn Sunday in nearly half of the state’s drought-stricken 33 counties.
One wildfire in northern New Mexico that started April 6 merged with a newer fire Saturday to form the largest blaze in the state, leading to widespread evacuations in Mora and San Miguel counties. That fire was at 84 square miles (217 square kilometers) Sunday and 12% contained.
An uncontained wind-driven wildfire in northern New Mexico that began April 17 had charred 81 square miles (209 square kilometers) of ponderosa pine, oak brush and grass by Sunday morning north of Ocate, an unincorporated community in Mora County.
Meanwhile in Arizona, some residents forced to evacuate due to a wildfire near Flagstaff were allowed to return home Sunday morning.
In Nebraska, authorities said wind-driven wildfires sweeping through parts of the state killed a retired Cambridge fire chief and injured at least 11 firefighters.
Winds and temperatures in New Mexico diminished Saturday but remained strong enough to still fan fires. Dozens of evacuation orders remained in place.
Fire officials were expecting the northern wildfires to slow Sunday as cloud and smoke cover moves in, allowing the forests to retain more moisture. But they added that the interior portions of the fires could show moderate to extreme behavior, which could threaten structures in those areas.
More than 200 structures have been charred by the wildfires thus far and an additional 900 remain threatened, Lujan Grisham said.
Fire management officials said an exact damage count was unclear because it’s still too dangerous for crews to go in and look at all the homes that have been lost.
“We do not know the magnitude of the structure loss. We don’t even know the areas where most homes made it through the fire, where homes haven’t been damaged or anything like that,” said operation sections chief Jayson Coil.
Some 1,000 firefighters were battling the wildfires across New Mexico, which already has secured about $3 million in grants to help with the fires.
Lujan Grisham said she has asked the White House for more federal resources and she’s calling for a ban of fireworks statewide.
“We need more federal bodies for firefighting, fire mitigation, public safety support on the ground in New Mexico,” she said. “It’s going to be a tough summer. So that’s why we are banning fires. And that is why on Monday I will be asking every local government to be thinking about ways to ban the sales of fireworks.”