Gusty winds fan wildfires in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado

May 19, 2022, 4:48 PM | Updated: 7:00 pm
FILE - A firefighting crew arrives at the scene of a field on fire adjacent to the Amazon Distribut...

FILE - A firefighting crew arrives at the scene of a field on fire adjacent to the Amazon Distribution Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., on May 12, 2022. More than 5,000 firefighters are battling multiple wildland blazes in dry, windy weather across the Southwest. Evacuation orders remained in place Thursday, May 19, 2022, for residents near fires in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP, File)

(Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — More than 5,000 firefighters battled multiple wildland blazes in dry, windy weather across the Southwest on Thursday, including a fire that has destroyed dozens of structures in west Texas and another that’s picking up steam again in New Mexico.

Evacuation orders remained in place for residents near the wildfires in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. High winds prevented officials from sending aircraft to drop retardant or water in many places.

Dangerous fire weather fueled by gusty winds, high temperatures and extremely low humidity was predicted to continue through Friday — especially in New Mexico, where the largest U.S. wildfire has burned for more than a month and the governor expects the number of structures destroyed will exceed 1,000.

Fire officials said ground crews worked hard to keep the most active flames in check at the fire in a region between Santa Fe and Taos.

“Today, we saw a real good, old-fashioned firefight out there,” U.S. Forest Service fire behavior analyst Stewart Turner said Thursday night. “Tomorrow is going to be a big day — bigger than we saw today.”

Winds gusting up to 50 mph (80 kmp) were expected Friday before easing into the weekend when cooler temperatures also should provide some relief, Turner said.

More than 2,100 fire personnel were fighting that blaze, which has burned more than 473 square miles (1,225 square kilometers) of timber and brush in a region east of Santa Fe and south of Taos.

Only about one-third of the fire’s perimeter is estimated contained. But fire operations chief Carl Schwope said crews quickly snuffed out out new fires sparked by embers blowing ahead of the main blaze in steep, rugged terrain.

“Aircraft got shut down early because of high winds, so they are there on their own,” Schwope said. “Across this entire fire area, things are looking really favorable — a lot better than we had expected it to look at his time yesterday.”

He added: “It doesn’t mean we didn’t have fire growth today and we are definitely going to see more fire movement tomorrow. But as of now, things are looking really good.”

In Texas, the Texas A&M Forestry Service said the fire that has burned dozens of homes was still only 5% contained Thursday afternoon after charring more than 15 square miles (39 square kilometers) of juniper and mesquite brush 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Abilene.

That fire had prompted the evacuation of the historic town of Buffalo Gap on Wednesday. Forestry Service spokesman Stuart Morris said the town had reopened Thursday and that no injuries had been reported, but 27 structures had been destroyed.

Morris said in an email Thursday night that a post-fire assessment team was working to document what kind of structures were destroyed and that it was not yet clear how many were residences.

All of West Texas was under a red flag wildfire danger warning Thursday, with an underlying drought and critically to extremely dry vegetation combining with 100-degree temperatures Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) and gusty winds.

However, the Forestry Service said a new weather pattern by the weekend is expected to usher in cooler temperatures and moisture that could limit potential for wildfire activity on Saturday and Sunday.

Wildfires have broken out this spring earlier than usual across multiple states in the western U.S., where climate change and an enduring drought are fanning the frequency and intensity of forest and grassland fires.


Sonner reported from Reno, Nevada. Associated Press writer Terry Wallace contributed to this report from Dallas, Texas.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Haitian migrant Gerson Solay, 28, carries his daughter, Bianca, as he and his family cross into Can...
Associated Press

US, Canada to end loophole that allows asylum-seekers to move between countries

President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced a plan to close a loophole to an immigration agreement.
1 day ago
Expert skateboarder Di'Orr Greenwood, an artist born and raised in the Navajo Nation in Arizona and...
Associated Press

Indigenous skateboard art featured on new stamps unveiled at Phoenix skate park

The Postal Service unveiled the “Art of the Skateboard" stamps at a Phoenix skate park, featuring designs from Indigenous artists.
1 day ago
(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
7 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
15 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
15 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
22 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...
Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
Gusty winds fan wildfires in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado