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Wildfires fueled by windy conditions force more evacuations and hamper progress

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Wildfires threatening communities across the country have already burned thousands of acres this week, and authorities in southwestern Nebraska said on Saturday crews were making progress in battling the blazes that have forced evacuations.

Driven by high winds over dry forest and dry grasslands, wildfires were reported Friday from northwest Kansas to Cambridge, Nebraska.

There were no immediate reports of damage to homes or businesses.

ARIZONA FIRE CREWS PREPARE FOR WINDY CONDITIONS

While the Nebraska Department of Transportation mentioned Saturday morning, while conditions had improved – with some churches, schools and roads reopening – the risk of fires and heavy dust winds continues.

It comes as firefighters worked to contain large blazes in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.

Fox Weather reported Friday that Colorado Springs residents were driven from their homes by a fire first spotted near Interquest and Interstate 25.

Although firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze and reported that no structures were lost, road closures and evacuations will remain in effect for the near future.

Plumes of smoke rise from a pair of growing wildfires in northeastern New Mexico Friday, April 22, 2022, outside Las Vegas, New Mexico. The Southwest Fires have burned dozens of homes in northern Arizona and put many small villages in New Mexico at risk.
(AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), additional wildfires are appearing in southeastern Colorado, and the agency reported that the fire danger in the Denver area was the highest in more than a decade. .

In New Mexico, wind gusts of more than 100 km/h caused the Calf Canyon fire, which has already prompted the evacuation of dozens of homes.

Officials reported Saturday that the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires had merged, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

The weather conditions there had impacted the response by grounding the use of aircraft.

The US Forest Service said that more than 120 firefighters were mobilized to try to contain the flames.

BIDEN ORDER AIM TO PROTECT ANCIENT FORESTS AS WILDFIRES IGNITE AROUND US

The Cooks Peak Fire is also out of control, prompting evacuations in Mora and Colfax counties.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed emergency declarations for Colfax, Lincoln, San Miguel and Valencia counties.

“These emergency declarations will provide critical funding to communities battling and recovering from wildfires across New Mexico,” she said in a statement. “The state is actively partnering with counties and municipalities to help New Mexicans affected by the wildfires every step of the way. I keep the firefighters working across the state in my prayers, as well as the families affected. by these fires.”

Meanwhile, the tunnel fire in Arizona, near Flagstaff, remains just 3% contained, covering nearly 21,000 acres.

The Mormon Lake Hotshots travel down a logging road outside of Flagstaff, Ariz., Thursday, April 21, 2022, as crews continue to battle a massive wildfire.
(Rachel Gibbons/Arizona Daily Sun via AP)

The Cococnino National Forest said on Saturday that firefighters were positioned to respond, taking into account the changing winds.

More than 100 properties were affected by the fire, including 30 residences. 765 houses have been evacuated since the start of the fire last Sunday.

On Thursday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency for Coconino County “to help affected communities with the resources needed to respond to and recover from the fire’s destruction.” .

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While helicopters were able to help there, Friday’s favorable weather didn’t last.

The threat of increased fire risk in the United States is expected to continue through the summer, according to a recent outlook released by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

Wildfires have become a year-round threat in the West. Scientists said the problems have been exacerbated by decades of fire suppression and poor management, as well as a more than 20-year-old mega-drought that studies link to human causes. climate change.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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