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New Mexico wildfire scorches about 275 square miles, fueled by strong winds and high temperatures

Strong winds, high temperatures, and low humidity continued fanning the flames on Sunday of a devastating wildfire that has already scorched more than 275 square miles in northern New Mexico

“An exceptionally dangerous and likely historic stretch of critical to extreme fire weather conditions will persist through the middle portion of next week,” the National Weather Service Albuquerque warned on Saturday. 

More than 1,500 firefighters are battling the Hermit’s Peak and Calf Canyon fires that are raging northeast of Santa Fe and only 21% contained. 

  • The"super scooper" aircraft battles the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires Image 1 of 3

    In this photo released by the U.S. Forest Service, aircraft known as "super scoopers" battle the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires in the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.  (J. Michael Johnson/U.S. Forest Service via AP)

  • A New Mexico National Guard Aviation UH-60 Black Hawk drops thousands of gallons of water Image 2 of 3

    In this photo provided by the New Mexico National Guard, a New Mexico National Guard Aviation UH-60 Black Hawk flies as part of firefighting efforts, dropping thousands of gallons of water with Bambi buckets from the air on the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire. (New Mexico National Guard via AP)

  • Smoke from New Mexico's Calf Canyon Fire Image 3 of 3

    Smoke from the Calf Canyon fire is seen from Mora village, New Mexico, U.S., April 29, 2022.  (REUTERS/Andrew Hay)

High winds with gusts up to 50 mph have complicated firefighters’ efforts, keeping scooper planes periodically grounded throughout the weekend. 

“The wind is incredible. It is precedent setting, the amount of wind we are going to have and the duration we are going to have it,” Todd Abel, a spokesman for the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, said a press conference on Sunday. 


The National Weather Service Albuquerque issued a red flag warning on Saturday that will stay in place through Monday evening, citing “very strong winds, several hours of single digit humidity, above average warmth as well as a very unstable atmosphere.” 

The Hermits Peak fire started more than a month ago when a prescribed burn in the Santa Fe National Forest got out of control due to “unexpected erratic winds.” The Calf Canyon fire started about two weeks later and eventually merged with the Hermits Peak fire. 

  • New Mexico wildfire Image 1 of 3

    This photo provided by Renee Valdez shows plumes of smoke rising into the air, from wildfires in Las Vegas, N.M. on Monday, May 2, 2022.  (Renee Valdez via The AP)

  • New Mexico wildfire Image 2 of 3

    Smoke and dust sweep across a field near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.  (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

  • New Mexico wildfire Image 3 of 3

    A sunset is seen through plumes of wildfire smoke in Las Vegas, N.M., on Saturday, May 7, 2022.  (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Thousands of residents have already been forced to evacuate and fire spokesman Todd Abel warned that residents who have yet to do so but are under evacuation orders could cause congestion if they wait any longer. 


President Biden declared a major disaster in the area on Thursday, which will allow those impacted by the fires to get temporary housing, home repairs, and other benefits during the recovery. 

About 1,986 square miles have already been burned throughout the United States this year, which is the most since 2018 at this point in the year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Paul Best is a reporter for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to Paul.best@fox.com and on Twitter: @KincaidBest. 

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