Strong winds could push New Mexico fire toward mountain town

Spring Wildfires
Posted at 9:37 AM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 11:37:02-04

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Residents of the small northeastern New Mexico town of Las Vegas have been watching aircraft disappear into a giant plume of smoke to fight a growing wildfire that has burned hundreds of square miles, destroyed about 170 homes and threatens more destruction.

Officials on Wednesday said winds could push the fire toward Las Vegas.

READ MORE: Wind-whipped fire forces more New Mexico residents to flee

New Mexico’s Democratic governor on Tuesday said she's seeking a federal disaster declaration for the largest blaze burning in the U.S. The governor signed a request for a presidential disaster declaration while fire managers predicted the battle to protect towns in the state's northeast pine forests and mountains would become more intense later in the week.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said 15,500 homes are evacuated while the blaze burns near towns dotting mountainsides, towering ponderosa pine forests and meadows. Around 170 homes have been destroyed, but officials expect that number to grow.

READ MORE: Wildfire torching New Mexico pine forests keeps growing

She said the number of homes destroyed likely will increase.

The fire is the result of two blazes that merged, one of which was a prescribed fire that jumped containment lines.