Firefighters stopped the spread of the largest wildfire in America as heavy winds eased Wednesday. President Joe Biden also approved a disaster declaration, which provides financial resources for remote areas of New Mexico that have been devastated by fires since April.
U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez made the declaration of presidential disaster during an evening briefing of the U.S. Forest Service on efforts to control the wildfire that has spread across northeastern New Mexico's 250-mile (647 km) of high alpine forests and grasslands at southern tip of Rocky Mountains.
The congresswoman stated that it would help with rebuilding, as well as help with expenses and hardships that people face right now. "We are glad that it happened so quickly.
Fire chiefs stated that they are taking advantage of a period of calm and cool weather to prevent the fire from moving closer to Las Vegas, New Mexico and other villages along the fire's shifting fronts. Red fire retardant was dropped from helicopters and aircrafts, while ground crews cleared brush and timber to starve the fire on crucial fronts.
For days, bulldozers have been removing fire lines around Las Vegas' 13,000-person population. Crews have also been burning vegetation to clear the area. In preparation for the strong winds that are expected to hit this weekend, aircraft dropped additional fire retardant along a ridge west of town.
Mandatory evacuations have affected approximately 15,500 homes in outlying communities and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains valleys that border Las Vegas. Around 170 homes were destroyed in the fire.
President's Disaster Declaration releases emergency funds for recovery efforts in three northeastern New Mexico counties where fires continue to rage. It also includes portions of southern New Mexico, where wind-driven blazes claimed two lives and destroyed more than 200 homes in mid April.
According to a White House statement, the aid includes grants for temporary housing, home repairs, and low-cost loans to pay for uninsured property loss.
Officials from local law enforcement acknowledged the emotional and physical toll of long evacuations. Antonio Salazar, Chief of Las Vegas Police, stated that his officers would conduct "burglary patrols," which will be carried out in evacuated areas. They also help to maintain order at the local Walmart while people queue up to buy supplies.
Chris Lopez, San Miguel County Sheriff, stated that "repopulation is one thing we are very interested in." "Everybody longs to go home."
According to Dan Pearson, a federal fire behavior specialist, forecasters expect two days with relatively light winds, before strong spring gales return.
He said, "Our prayers are working because there have been favorable winds in the fire area today." "We will take advantage of this fact in the coming days. We can only build resilient pockets.
Only 20% of the fire's perimeter was controlled. The flames were located about one mile (1.6 km) from Las Vegas. Schools were closed in preparation for possible evacuation.
Officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory were closely monitoring another wildfire Wednesday, which was within 5 miles (8 km) of facilities at Los Alamos' U.S. national defense lab.
Crews of firemen worked to widen the road between the fire and Los Alamos, clearing underbrush, and treating the area in fire retardant.
Scientists and fire experts agree that wildfires are now a threat all year in drought-stricken West. They burn faster and more intensely than ever before because of climate change. Overgrown areas can also increase wildfire danger, according to fire officials.
The National Interagency Fire Center reported Wednesday, that 12 large uncontained fires had burned approximately 436 miles (1,129 km) in five US states.