Tame the second-biggest wildfire in New Mexico’s history a ‘nightmare’, firefighters say

Containing the second-largest wildfire in New Mexico history is a nightmare for crews who have battled the blaze for more than a month, a firefighter said Thursday.

Travis Regensberg, a general contractor brought in by New Mexico to help protect homes and buildings, said at one point the intense Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire was spreading at 50 mph (80 mph) kilometer).

“It’s been a nightmare,” Regensberg told CNN on Thursday. “It’s been really hard for us. I’ve been through these 17 days in a row – sleeping three, four hours a night to protect the community here.”

Firefighters secured the buildings by creating rings around them and using bulldozers to cut fire lines, he said. Additionally, they try to minimize harm to septic systems and wells so that people have “a place to go back to,” says Regensberg.

High winds are the biggest challenge for firefighters.

“This fire is a sleeping beast. I mean, I call it the devil,” he added.

The monster wildfire is a combination of two fires raging about 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Las Vegas, New Mexico. Collectively, the fires have burned more than 166,000 acres as of late Thursday, with a 20 percent containment capacity, according to the interagency reporting website Inciweb.

It has grown into the second-largest wildfire in the state’s history, according to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Officials warn dozens of homes have been destroyed and another 15,000 are in danger.

“I’m 71. I’ve never seen it this bad, this big – I mean it’s huge,” resident Barbara Kuehl told CNN.

Barbara Kuehl and her husband David Kuehl lost power in their home in Holman, just north of the fire area, but they are grateful their home was saved, she said.

Kuehl says the sky is clear where she lives, but she’s thinking of people who aren’t so lucky.

“I just pray for people who are in danger, or houses or structures,” she said. “Our friends have lost everything, almost everything. … Really sad.”

Crews are battling five other wildfires in the state, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. So far this year, about 300,000 acres have burned in New Mexico – more than burned in the previous two years combined, said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.

President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in New Mexico in response to the devastation of the wildfires, which gave the state access to critical federal aid.


Incident Commander Dave Bales told CNN the winds eased Thursday and are expected to calm down on Friday, allowing for some progress in fighting the blaze.

Bales said: “The fire really went out today (Thursday).

However, officials warn that winds will pick up again later this week – making fighting fires even more difficult.

“Crews have made good progress in keeping & building fire lines & protecting structures around the fire against the strong winds expected this weekend,” Grisham said in a statement. tweet.

Gary Zell, US Forest Service incident meteorologist, warned that clouds and smoke combined with low humidity and wind direction will contribute to “extreme wildfire conditions” throughout the weekend. to Tuesday of next week.

Previously, the area experienced severe fire weather, resulting in 24 red flag events in 30 days, Bales added. Red flag warnings are issued when critical weather conditions cause wildfires to flare up or become larger.

Nearly 30 towns across San Miguel and Mora counties are being notified of full evacuations due to the wildfires.

“This is a long-term event and we do not anticipate bringing this fire under control anytime soon,” according to announcements from both counties.

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