(Trends Wide) — Emergency management officials in New Mexico warned residents to closely monitor rapidly changing Calf Canyon fire conditions and the possibility of further evacuations after the fire reached more than 100,000 acres on Sunday.
Red flag warnings – issued when conditions are just right for wildfires to start and spread – remain in effect across much of the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fire areas as winds changing temperatures, rising temperatures and small changes in humidity “challenge established fire lines in multiple directions,” according to an update from InciWeb, a US wildfire information bureau.
The fire, which started on April 19 and later combined with the Hermits Peak fire, had burned nearly 42,087 hectares as of Sunday and was 30% contained, according to InciWeb.
Authorities in northern New Mexico urged residents in more than two dozen communities to evacuate immediately Saturday due to the massive fire, after it grew dramatically in size in just one day.
“This emerging situation continues to be extremely serious and failure to evacuate could be a fatal decision,” officials warned in the statement.
Authorities in San Miguel and Mora counties have asked residents within the fire area to “remain on high alert for changes in evacuation status and road closures,” InciWeb’s Sunday report said.
Officials also warned of poor air quality for sensitive groups in the Las Vegas, New Mexico, area as smoke heads into the valley, according to the report.
According to the report, six planes and eight helicopters will continue aerial operations to slow the spread of the fire and help firefighters on the ground.
Crews around Las Vegas are using bulldozers to create firebreaks and prevent the fire from spreading further, Bill Morse, public information officer for the Santa Fe National Forest, said at a news conference Sunday morning.
Fire season peaks in New Mexico in June, but amid a multi-year drought in the West, wildfires have already burned more acres in the state so far this year than in seven of the last eight years, according to statistics from the Southwest Coordination Center.
Just north of the Calf Canyon Fire, the Cooks Peak Fire has burned more than 60,000 acres. It was 69% contained this Sunday, according to InciWeb.