Southwest fires fanned by winds, fueled by drought

Crews are working to battle blazes in New Mexico and Texas

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Fires in the Southwest were fueled by dry and windy conditions on Thursday, with dangerous fire weather forecast to continue through Friday. 

In New Mexico, the nation's largest fire – the combined Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires – spanned 303,341 acres. 

WESTERN FIRES FUELED BY WINDS PROMPT EVACUATIONS, FOREST CLOSURES

According to the U.S. Forest Service, 2,408 personnel were working on the blaze. The fire was 40% contained.

Whipping winds prevented New Mexico officials from sending aircraft to drop water or retardant. 

Winds gusting up to 50 mph were expected on Friday, before cooler weather over the weekend.

In neighboring western Texas, the Texas A&M Forestry Service tweeted that "high significant fire potential will continue in high risk grass/juniper fuel for the Rolling Plains and Western/Eastern Hill Country Thursday and Friday."

"Any new fires in grass and brush vegetation will likely be resistant to control, as underlying drought and critically to extremely dry vegetation combine with 100-degree temperatures and periods of elevated to critical fire weather," the agency said on Facebook. 

All of West Texas was under a red flag warning on Thursday and firefighters were working to contain several large wildfires. 

EFFORTS TO BATTLE FIRE IN NEW MEXICO AIDED BY THUNDERSTORMS

One Texas A&M Forest Service firefighter was injured working on the Coconut Fire in Wilbarger County, but has since been released from the hospital. 

The Forest Service said Friday that the Coconut Fire spans an estimated 26,000 acres and is 25% contained.

In Taylor County, the structure-burning Mesquite Fire scorched over an estimated 9,613 acres and was 25% contained on Thursday night. 

The National Interagency Fire Center noted that evacuation orders remain in place for residents near wildfires in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

More than 5,400 wildland firefighters and support personnel are assigned to incidents across the country.

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About 1.3 million acres have burned this year nationwide. Wildfires have become a year-round threat in the West.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.