Western fires fueled by winds prompt evacuations, forest closures

Meanwhile, firefighters in Southern California worked on a brush fire that sparked near Los Angeles

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Officials across the drought-stricken West are warning residents of increased fire danger due to strong winds.

In New Mexico, fire managers warned Tuesday that they were concerned about potentially erratic winds from thunderstorms.

EFFORTS TO BATTLE FIRE IN NEW MEXICO AIDED BY THUNDERSTORMS

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a news conference with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell and top state officials that many residents should brace for potential evacuations all summer. 

The U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday that the state's largest fire in history – and the largest fire currently burning in the U.S. – had spread over 299,565 acres. 

Nearly 2,000 personnel were working to fight the Hermits Peak and Cal Canyon fires, which were at 34% containment. Some rain from storms aided the effort on Monday and several small fires were started by lightning strikes. 

Estimates of burned homes and other structures likely range between 1,000 and 1,500.

Officials with three of New Mexico’s five national forests announced closure orders that are scheduled to take effect on Thursday. 

NEW MEXICO WILDFIRE SCORCHES NEARLY 300,000 ACRES, BECOMES LARGEST WILDFIRE IN STATE HISTORY

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, firefighters in Southern California worked on a brush fire that sparked near Los Angeles.

A 200-acre wildfire destroyed 20 homes and damaged 11 others in Laguna Niguel last week. 

"California continues to experience longer wildfire seasons as a direct result of climate change," Cal Fire’s 2022 outlook said.

The National Weather Service’s Sacramento office said that a fire weather watch will be in effect from Thursday morning through Friday night. 

The National Interagency Fire Center says that 1.3 million acres have burned this year nationwide. 

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Wildfires have become a year-round threat in the region.

Scientists and fire experts say they are moving faster and burning hotter than ever due to climate change

The Associated Press contributed to this report.