Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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New Mexico wildfire grows; California fire destroys mansions

AP – The largest wildfire in the United States (US) was spreading toward mountain resort towns in northern New Mexico, prompting officials to issue another set of warnings for more people to evacuate.

Meanwhile, a wildfire that erupted on Wednesday afternoon in coastal Southern California raced through coastal bluffs of multimillion-dollar mansions, burning at least 20 homes, fire officials said. The flames were fanned by gusty ocean winds but they were dying down on Wednesday night. No injuries were reported but several streets were ordered evacuated.

The fire, which occurred in Laguna Niguel, was relatively small at about 81 hectares but the wind drove embers into palm trees, attics and dense, dry brush on slopes and steep canyons that hadn’t burnt for decades, Chief of the Orange County Fire Authority Brian Fennessy said at a news conference.

Fennessy said climate change has made even small fires that once would have been easily contained into extreme threats to life and property throughout the West.

As night fell, fire officials in New Mexico said the fastest-moving flames along the eastern front of the Sangre de Cristo range on the southern end of the Rockies were headed farther northeast – away from the area’s biggest population centre in Taos, a well-known tourist enclave 64 kilometres (km) south of the Colorado line.

“Currently no issues in the Taos area,” fire operations chief Todd Abel said. “The fire is kind of wanting to move to the north and east a little bit. But we’re still going to pay close attention.”

Some aircraft were able to fly to drop retardant on the blaze despite winds gusting in some areas in excess of 72 kilometres per hour. And some evacuation orders were relaxed along the southern flank of the fire near Las Vegas – more than 80km south of the flames on the northern perimeter.

A firefighter douses fire in Laguna Niguel, California. PHOTO: AP