Wildfires have become a year-round threat in the U.S. West and they are moving faster and burning hotter than ever due to climate change.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday declared wildfires lasting for weeks in New Mexico "a major disaster," unlocking millions of dollars in relief for affected individuals and local recovery efforts.
Federal aid can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help local residents and business owners recover from the damage of the wildfires.
Seven wildfires are burning in the mountain state, the most in any state, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. One of the fires, the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fire, started in mid-April as two large fires and merged more than a week ago in northern New Mexico, where strong winds lasted for 24 out of the last 30 days.
The fire has burned more than 160,000 acres and hundreds of structures. Furthermore, over 15,000 homes could be threatened this week if the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fire, the second-largest fire in New Mexico in at least 30 years, continues to grow.
About 300,000 acres of land have burned across New Mexico so far this year, more than the past two full years combined, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. The situation is "a long-term event," San Miguel and Mora counties said in a joint release Tuesday.
"We don't anticipate having 'control' of this fire any time soon." The wildfire season in the region normally starts in May or June but this year is dangerously early due to dire fire weather and ongoing megadrought leaving no moisture in the soil.
The current wildfires in New Mexico began on April 5. On April 23, half the state has a fire issue since more than 20 wildfires were burning in at least 16 of the state's 33 counties, fueled by gusty winds and drought conditions. Wildfires have become a year-round threat in the U.S. West and they are moving faster and burning hotter than ever due to climate change.