• Sun. Mar 26th, 2023


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Wildfires Burn More Than 150,000 Acres in Three States

Wildfires that continue to blaze across Arizona, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas have been blamed for at least one death, the scorching of more than 130,000 acres and the evacuations of about 4,000 homes, officials said.

The fires are part of what has been an early and active season across the country, as fires have also plagued California, Colorado and Texas.

Corey Mead, a National Weather Service forecaster, said that Nebraska had seen “above normal” activity during its current fire season, and the governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, said that the fires had come well before the beginning of the state’s wildfire season. “It’s going to be a tough summer,” she said.

Wildfires are increasing in size and intensity in the United States, and wildfire seasons are growing longer. Research has suggested that heat and dryness associated with global warming are major reasons for the increase in bigger and more powerful fires.

In New Mexico, Ms. Lujan Grisham said at a news conference on Saturday that the largest threat in her state was the Calf Canyon fire, east of Santa Fe, which put more than 900 homes at risk.

The Calf Canyon fire combined with the Hermits Peak fire, about 12 miles northwest of Las Vegas, N.M., at the base of Hermits Peak in the Pecos Wilderness. The Hermits Peak fire started on April 6 after “unexpected erratic winds” from a prescribed fire in the area caused the blaze to grow, officials reported.

Ms. Lujan Grisham said that more than 200 structures had been burned and that 1,000 firefighters had been dispatched. By Sunday, the Calf Canyon fire had burned more than 54,000 acres and was 12 percent contained.

More than 3,400 homes in New Mexico were under mandatory evacuations and more than 3,000 homes were under voluntary evacuations because of the wildfires. Ms. Lujan Grisham said residents who were not under any evacuation orders should be prepared to leave because of the nature of the rapidly spreading fires.

Coconino County in Northern Arizona was under a state of emergency as firefighters struggle to contain a wildfire, about 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff. More than 260 firefighters and workers had been deployed to the fire, which forced more than 750 households in the area to evacuate, according to the governor’s office.

The fire in Coconino County, which began on April 17, was only 3 percent contained as of Sunday and had already burned more than 21,000 acres. About 25 structures have been lost to the fire, known as the Tunnel fire, the governor’s office said.

One of the casualties of the Tunnel Fire has been the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, which has been “burned in its entirety,” the park said on Facebook.

The monument, which occupies 3,040 acres and is surrounded by Coconino National Forest, is centered around a cinder cone that is the youngest volcano of the largest volcanic field in the contiguous United States. The park’s visitor center was unharmed, but fires nearby continued to burn, the park said.

The sheriff’s office in Coconino County said that evacuation orders for some neighborhoods along Highway 89 would be lifted on Sunday as the threat of the fire diminished in some areas.

In Nebraska, one person was killed and three firefighters were injured as wildfires that began on Friday, fueled by high winds and dry grass, burned throughout the western and central regions of the state, the authorities said.

A spokeswoman for the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said on Sunday that there were reports of additional injuries in other fires but that she did not immediately have specific details.

The state’s National Guard deployed at least three helicopters and several trucks to help with the fires, and the state’s Wildland Incident Response and Assistance Team sent specialists to several of them, the emergency management agency said on Saturday.