(Photo: Reuters / Jim Urquhart)
New Mexico is battling two major fires on opposite ends of the state – in the southwest, Arizona’s gigantic Wallow Fire, and in the northeast, a Colorado-border wildfire. The embattled state is also fighting a third fire in the southeast that closed down Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
The Wallow Fire, close to becoming the largest wildfire in Arizona’s history, has caused local New Mexico officials to warn Luna residents that they might be ordered to evacuate at any time.
The two-week-old blaze has burned somewhere between 452,000 to 463,000 acres as of Monday night. It could surpass Arizona’s largest fire, the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski Fire, which scorched 468,000 acres, as soon as Tuesday, according to The Arizona Republic.
Despite its size, however, the Wallow Fire is not as destructive structure-wise as the Rodeo-Chediski. It has only destroyed 31 homes, compared to the 465 homes lost to the Rodeo-Chediski.
As of Monday, the Wallow Fire is 18 percent contained.
Firefighters have mostly taken control of the northern edge of the Wallow Fire, and are working furiously to fend off the eastern part of the Wallow Fire that is threatening Luna. They are setting strategic fires in New Mexico to burn off fuel and keep the Wallow Fire from growing in the state.
“The line is holding. There’s no fire in New Mexico that we haven’t set ourselves,” said fire spokesman Sean Johnson, to The Associated Press.
In the opposite corner of New Mexico, along the Colorado border, another wildfire has grown from 100 acres to about 6,000 acres in less than 24 hours on Monday, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center. The fire along the New Mexico-Colorado border began on Sunday and has forced about 1,000 people to be ordered to evacuate in the town of Raton, N.M. It has also closed down the main north-south highway since Sunday afternoon.
And in southeastern New Mexico, the Loop fire near the Carlsbad Caverns National Park has burned about 3,000 acres as of Monday. Hundreds of victors and workers were evacuated on Monday from the national park. The Loop fire is currently zero percent contained.
Arizona officials are still investigating what started the Wallow Fire, but they suspect it began from an unattended campfire.
On the Web: Map of Wallow Fire Growth