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New Mexico governor seeking US disaster status for wildfire

LAS VEGAS (AP) – New Mexico’s governor asked United States (US) President Joe Biden to declare a disaster as firefighters scrambled to clear brush, build fire lines and spray water to keep the largest blaze burning in the US from destroying more homes in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

During a briefing on the fire burning across the state’s northeast, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a request for a presidential disaster declaration that will be sent to the White House in hopes of freeing up financial assistance for recovery efforts.

She said it was important that the declaration be made on the front end rather than waiting until the fire is out.

“I’m unwilling to wait,” said Lujan Grisham, a first-term Democrat who is running for re-election. “I have families who don’t know what the next day looks like, I have families who are trying to navigate their children and healthcare resources, figure out their livelihoods and they’re in every single little community and it must feel to them like they are out there on their own.”

In the small northeastern New Mexico city of Las Vegas, residents were already voicing concerns about grocery stores being closed as some people chose to leave ahead of the flames even though evacuations had not been ordered.

Fire managers told an evening briefing at the local community college that the spread slowed a bit on Tuesday, and put the amount of newly charred land up slightly, to about 231 square miles of mountainsides, towering ponderosa pines and meadows.

A slurry bomber dumps fire retardant on homes on the westside of Las Vegas. PHOTO: AP