New Mexico fires could threaten 15,000 homes if they continue to grow, officials say


By Paradise Afshar and Theresa Waldrop, CNN

More than 15,000 homes could be threatened over the next three days if the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires in New Mexico continue to grow, according to Andy Lyon, a public information officer with the Southwest Incident Management Team.

This includes the city of Las Vegas, New Mexico, which is about 85 miles northeast of Albuquerque, and the surrounding communities in San Miguel and Mora Counties, according to Lyon.

Five fires are actively burning throughout six counties in New Mexico, according to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Like much of the Southwest, New Mexico has been under a prolonged, severe drought, which has helped create critical fire conditions. April’s fire weather conditions are the worst seen in the state in more than a decade.

The largest blaze, the combined Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires, merged more than a week ago and have burned about 146,000 acres, according to Lyon, and the fire is just 20% contained.

Some 172 homes have been destroyed in Mora County and San Miguel County, and more than 6,000 homes have been evacuated.

“One house lost to one New Mexico family is too many,” she said. “We are very grateful for the work of the firefighters and fire responders.”

About 3,500 people had been evacuated in and around the city of Las Vegas as of Monday evening because of the fire threat, according to San Miguel County Manager Joy Ansley. As of Friday, 270 structures had been visibly damaged or destroyed, including 166 homes, she said.

The situation is “a long-term event,” San Miguel and Mora counties said in a joint release Tuesday. “We don’t anticipate having ‘control’ of this fire any time soon.”

Lujan Grisham said the Cooks Peak fire has burned more than 59,000 acres and is 72% contained. She said mitigation efforts, such as digging trenches and containment lines, are being used.

“It’s not like putting out a house fire. You don’t drive a fire truck and spray water,” the governor said. Additional support is coming from the federal government and other states, she said.

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CNN’s Monique Smith contributed to this report