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Crews are slowing down fires in New Mexico, preparing for dangerous conditions National

ALBUCKER, New Mexico (AP) – More than 2,000 firefighters battling the largest U.S. wildfire have dug back-up fire lines and relocated fire engines around homes in northeastern New Mexico on Wednesday in anticipation of returning to windy, dangerous conditions in the coming days.

After a weather break that has allowed significant progress on the ground and out of the air in recent days, forecasters have released high fire warnings from southern Nevada through parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado starting Thursday.

“The next three days will be days of dizziness,” fire behavior analyst Dennis Burns said Wednesday.

“Crews are working as hard as they can to get in line as soon as possible,” he said during a briefing this afternoon in a fire east of Santa Fe that stretches northeast toward Taos.

Most of the big fires this spring were in Arizona and New Mexico. The largest mileage is through more than 471 square miles (1,220 square kilometers) of forest, which many firefighters have described as “ripe and ready to burn” due to a major drought that has lasted for decades and warm and windy conditions caused by climate change.

New Mexico Gov. Michel Luhan Grisham said that by the time all estimates are made, damage to homes and buildings could reach more than 1,000.

There were no new evacuation orders on Wednesday, and some were relaxed. Burns said the biggest new concern was that on Thursday thunderstorms packed with lightning and strong downwinds rekindled the fire.

Bulldozers and hand crews built emergency lines near the town of Angel Fire east of Taos to make sure the flames did not reach U.S. Highway 64 about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Colorado line.

“If we were lucky enough to dodge this bullet, the cloud cover would actually obscure the fuel and slightly reduce the behavior of the fire, which is good,” Burns said Wednesday. “But tomorrow will be a day to tell.”

Although the fire covers an area more than 1.5 times larger than New York City, firefighters said there were green pockets around the perimeter that could still burn.

“We’re trying to get around the edge of the fire, and we want to keep the fire where it is,” Jason Coyle, chief of the fire service, said Wednesday about using bulldozers to cut broad lines. which can block flames.

Fire managers also said not all areas were badly burned, and crews were able to protect many homes and buildings by clearing vegetation and using sprinklers and hoses to bring down flames as they approached settlements.

Lujan Grisham spoke with President Joe Biden on Tuesday and stressed the impact of the fires on communities and the need for a permanent partnership with the federal government as the drought-stricken state recovers and recovers from some of New Mexico’s most devastating wildfires.

Biden reaffirmed the federal government’s support and said every effort would be made to provide immediate assistance to people in the affected communities. He also thanked the staff of the first service, firefighters and other staff who are fighting the fire and came to the aid of residents.

According to the National Interdepartmental Fire Center, orders remain on Tuesday to evacuate residents near several major fires in New Mexico, Colorado and Texas, where three major fires were reported Tuesday.

Lujan Grisham warned that many New Mexico residents, depending on where they live, should be prepared for a potential evacuation all summer, given the likelihood of increased fire hazards due to strong winds, rising temperatures caused by climate change, and projections of virtually no precipitation. .

Another fire that burned in the Gila National Forest in southern New Mexico rose more than 57 square miles (148 square kilometers) Tuesday night through Wednesday, raising concerns among government officials. Forest roads and trails in the area were closed, but officials said that on Wednesday late Wednesday crews made good progress during the day, which prevented the perimeter from growing.

Associated Press writer Scott Soner contributed to this report from Reno, Nevada.

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