As blazes blazed incredibly early in the year in the arid United States Southwest, wind-driven wildfires damaged hundreds of houses and drove thousands of people to leave mountain settlements in northern New Mexico, Reuters reports.
Two flames converged northwest of Las Vegas, New Mexico, and surged over 15 miles of woodland, burning more than 200 structures, according to state officials. The fires were fueled by gusts of more than 75 mph (121 kph).
To the northeast, a fire 35 miles west of Taos grew to become the country’s biggest, prompting the evacuation of a scout ranch and endangering numerous settlements.
The flames are the most serious of almost two dozen that has engulfed the United States’ Southwest, raising fears that the region would face a particularly harsh fire season as a result of a decades-long drought and an abundance of dry vegetation.
Near Las Vegas, the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires burned 42,341 acres combined, an area greater than Disney World in Florida. The governor said that evacuations had been increased to a half-dozen other villages, including Mora.
According to experts, climate change has reduced winter snowpacks, allowing bigger and more severe fires to begin earlier in the year.
The Cooks Peak fire, west of Taos, nearly quadrupled in size to 48,672 acres, causing the Philmont Scout Ranch to evacuate and menacing the community of Cimarron.