New Mexico governor seeks more US aid to tackle wildfires

New Mexico’s governor is requesting additional federal help to respond to wildfires raging across the north of the state, including the second-largest wildfire in state history that officials estimate has destroyed hundreds of homes.

SANTA FE, NM – New Mexico’s governor is requesting additional federal help to respond to wildfires raging across the north of the state, including the wildfires that are the second largest in the state’s history and officials estimate that have destroyed hundreds of homes.

Governor Michelle Logan Grisham said Friday in a letter to President Joe Biden that New Mexico needs more help than is provided under the president’s latest disaster declaration.

The response required, including immediate funding to clear rubble and a “full suite of emergency protection measures,” is beyond state capacity and the federal government must bear 100% of the costs because part of the fire was caught by embers of wind from the arson described, the governor said. in the national.

This fire has since merged with another fire and has grown in size to 437 square miles (1,133 square kilometers). The 5-week-old shared fire threatened the small New Mexico city of Las Vegas for some time before it was stopped out of town last week. Firefighting teams continue to work to keep the flames out of the multiple rural communities.

The weather conditions still included unhelpful high temperatures and low humidity, officials said Saturday, but the lack of smoke allowed firefighting planes to hover in the sky for the second day in a row battling the blaze.

Sometime late on Saturday afternoon, the fire smoke plume reached 30,000 feet (9,144 meters), potentially collapsing on itself and creating vortex winds near the ground. Fire crews along part of the western flank of the fire have been warned of this potential danger, fire spokesman Mike D. Fries said.

Wildfires this spring broke out across multiple states in the western United States, including California, Colorado and Arizona. The forecast for the rest of spring does not bode well for the West, where drought and warmer weather have exacerbated the risk of wildfires.

Nationwide, more than 2,000 square miles (5,180 square kilometers) have burned so far this year — the most at this point since 2018, according to the Interagency National Fire Center.

In Colorado, a fire burning southwest of Colorado Springs grew to 1.5 square miles (3.8 square kilometers) overnight and was 10 percent contained, officials with the Teller County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday morning.

The fire, now known as the High Park Fire, broke out on Thursday near the former mining town of Cripple Creek. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

By Thursday evening, at least 120 people from 40 residences had evacuated the area, according to a Facebook post by the Teller County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials say the fire may continue to grow as winds are expected to reach 35 mph (56 kph). Winds are expected to drop around 2 p.m., which may help firefighting efforts.

In New Mexico, the perimeter of the largest wildfire is 500 miles (805 kilometers), longer than the distance between San Francisco and San Diego, and only 27% contained. Another fire to the west near Los Alamos burned 71 square miles (184 square kilometers) and was 23% contained.

Nearly 3,000 firefighters and other workers are battling the two blazes.

Fire officials said the largest fire destroyed at least 473 buildings, including homes and other buildings. Logan Grisham’s office on Friday provided an updated estimate that 262 homes had been destroyed, but stressed that authorities had not been able to safely enter many of the burned areas to assess the damage.

In other developments, Republican leaders in Mexico’s new House of Representatives on Friday called on the state to join a federal investigation into the handling of the arson described that caused the worst fire.

“We sincerely believe that the people of northern New Mexico deserve an impartial and detailed investigation by parties other than those employed by the federal government,” GOP lawmakers said in a letter to Logan Gresham, a Democrat.