A massive wildfire has scorched an area of New Mexico the size of more than half of New York City as hundreds of people have been told to evacuate their homes.
The blaze, dubbed the Calf Canyon Wildfire, scorched more than 103,000 acres Monday morning, according to US Forest Service officials in New Mexico.
Although the blaze has been 30% contained, it is expected to continue to grow, putting it on track to possibly be one of the largest and most destructive in the state’s recorded history.
The Calf Canyon fire is the largest fires in the United States and is the most destructive of a dozen fires in the southwest of the country, which scientists say are more widespread and are coming earlier this year due to climate change.
Burning since April 6, the blaze has destroyed hundreds of properties and forced the evacuation of dozens of settlements in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, but has yet to claim any casualties.
Forecasters issued a red flag warning, signaling that fires could start and spread easily, for the area where winds of 50 miles per hour and humidity as low as 5% were expected through Monday.
Flames could be seen from Las Vegas, which is only a few miles away.
Several hundred households in the northwest corner of the city were ordered to evacuate immediately Monday morning, San Miguel County said in an alert.
“This emerging situation remains extremely serious and refusing to evacuate could be a fatal decision,” the county said.
Wildfires have become a year-round threat in the drought-stricken west and they’re moving faster and burning hotter than ever due to climate change, scientists and fire experts say.
In the past five years, California has seen the eight largest wildfires in state history, while Colorado saw a destructive blaze tear through suburban neighborhoods last December.
Las Vegas is also home to New Mexico Highlands University and one of the most populated stops along Interstate 25 before the Colorado state line.
More than 3,100 firefighters and support personnel are battling blazes across the United States, with about a third trying to stop the blaze from spreading to New Mexico.
More than 4,400 square miles have burned in the United States so far this year.
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