In New Mexico, we’re bracing for more of extreme wildfire conditions


Las Vegas, NMRoberto E.Rosales/Albuquerque Journal

With the worst of the thick wildfire smoke having blown out of town, residents of this small northern New Mexico city tried to recapture a sense of normalcy Saturday as their rural neighbors hunkered down amid predictions of extreme fire conditions.

Shops and restaurants reopened, the historic center was no longer just populated by firefighters, but there was a widely felt sense of anxiety, loss, and wariness of what lay ahead…

While the city for now seemed spared of danger, rural areas were still threatened as the fire was driven by winds so fierce all firefighting aircraft had to be grounded. And the worst could be yet to come.

A combination of strong winds, high temperatures and low humidity were forecast by the National Weather Service to create an “exceptionally dangerous and likely historic stretch of critical to extreme fire weather conditions” for several days…

Some 1,400 firefighters worked feverishly to contain the largest fire burning in the U.S. The blaze, now more than a month old, has blackened more than 269 square miles (696 square kilometers) — an area larger than the city of Chicago…

Fire officials warned Las Vegas residents that they should still be ready to leave and not to let their guards down because winds will pick up. High winds and increasing smoke will also make it difficult — or impossible — to fly water-dropping choppers and planes dumping fire retardant.

The few choppers and water bombers still able to work other fires – like “our” fire, the Cerro Pelado – continued to fly over our home heading West from the Santa Fe Airport. Making their way up to Los Alamos – working to save the Labs. And the wind forecast continues unabated. Red Flag warnings still posted at our airport weather station for Sunday and Monday. Scary times!

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