A wildfire in New Mexico that had been blazing for 40 days became the biggest in the state’s recorded history, forcing the evacuation of a tiny ski resort and settlements in the drought-stricken highlands east of Santa Fe.
The conflagration, fueled by strong winds, has engulfed an area the size of Los Angeles, burning hundreds of houses and other structures in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
As the flame moved into the Pecos Wilderness, residents of the Sipapu ski resort and settlements roughly 13 miles (21 km) south of Taos got evacuation notifications on their smartphones late Sunday.
The Hermits Peak Calf Canyon fire has burned 298,060 acres (121,000 hectares), exceeding the Whitewater Baldy fire in 2012. According to the Santa Fe National Forest, it was 27 percent contained.
The 45-mile-long (72-kilometer-long) blaze started on April 6 when the US Forest Service failed to restrict a so-called controlled burn intended to avoid bigger wildfires. After then, the fire fused with another, the cause of which is still being investigated.
Watersheds and woodlands utilized for generations by Indo-Hispano agricultural settlements for construction materials, fuel, and irrigation have been devastated by the fire.
As the fire blazed near 20 miles (32 km) to Santa Fe, a major tourist attraction, smoke choked the plaza, prompting evacuations in adjacent mountain settlements on Sunday.
According to scientists, after a century of fire suppression and logging prohibitions, flames have rushed through woods dense with fuel.
They claim that climate change has reduced snowfall and dried out forests, while a 25-year drought has rendered trees more prone to disease and pests.