Dangerous fire weather around US threatens effort to contain blazes

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Dangerous fire weather around US threatens effort to contain blazes

Dangerous fire weather was expected to develop Friday, worsening conditions for firefighters across the U.S. 

Fox Weather reported that an extreme fire weather risk exists in the central and southern High Plains, including Colorado and Kansas.

An elevated fire weather risk also exists in the Northeast, where gusty winds and low humidity could fuel any fires in wooded areas. 

While crews had made progress on Nebraska’s deadly Road 702 Fire – which has been burning since last week – officials were wary of lightning and shifting winds of speeds up to 50 mph from oncoming thunderstorms.

That blaze, which has scorched 43,582 acres, is now 88% contained, according to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.

On Thursday, crews were focused on two areas of uncontrolled burning just south of US Highway 6 along the Republican River.

Red flag warnings for extreme fire danger were in place Thursday for Nebraska, all of New Mexico and parts of Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

Bad firefighting weather has generated unusually hot and fast-moving fires for this time of year.

A wildfire in southern Nebraska near the village of Edison on April 7, 2022.
A wildfire in southern Nebraska near the village of Edison on April 7, 2022.
Nebraska State Patrol via AP

The U.S. Forest Service said firefighters are working to contain the Barnett Branch Fire in North Carolina, which was first reported on Wednesday, and a new fire in New Mexico started at the Alamo Navajo Indian Reservation on Thursday.

At least 166 homes have been destroyed in northeastern New Mexico where the biggest fire currently burning in the U.S. and winds gusting up to 50 mph were also expected in the drought-stricken region. 

According to the U.S. National Forest Service for the Santa Fe National Forecast, the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak Fires are now 37% contained, stretching 65,824 acres. 

The Calf Canyon fire in the mountains south of Mora, New Mexico on April 25, 2022.
The Calf Canyon fire in the mountains south of Mora, New Mexico on April 25, 2022.
REUTERS/Andrew Hay

The agency noted a wind-driven run on the north edge of the fire challenged firefighters both on the ground and in the air on Thursday.

Approximately 3,000 firefighters were battling fires in Arizona and New Mexico.

In the Copper State, authorities downgraded some evacuation orders at the Tunnel Fire near Flagstaff. 

US Forest Service planes battling the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires in Santa Fe National Forest on April 26, 2022.
US Forest Service planes battling the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires in Santa Fe National Forest on April 26, 2022.
J. Michael Johnson/U.S. Forest Service via AP

The fire is now 89% contained, spanning 19,075 acres. 

That fire – one of several in Arizona – has impacted more than 100 properties and burned 30 residences.

The National Interagency Fire Center said Friday that 13 large fires have burned 236,407 acres. 

More than a million acres have burned nationwide since January 1.

Smoke from the Tunnel Fire behind a house near Flagstaff on April 19, 2022.
Smoke from the Tunnel Fire behind a house near Flagstaff on April 19, 2022.
REUTERS/Reuters TV
A pair of Resource Advisors from the Coconino National Forest recording data at the scene of the Tunnel Fires on April 21, 2022.
A pair of Resource Advisors from the Coconino National Forest recording data at the scene of the Tunnel Fires on April 21, 2022.
Tom Story/Northern Arizona Type 3 Incident Management Team, via AP

The threat of increased fire danger weather across the country is expected to continue into the summer, according to a recent outlook issued by the NIFC.

Wildfire has become a year-round threat in the West. Scientists have said that problems have been exacerbated by decades of fire suppression and poor management along with a more than 20-year megadrought that studies link to human-caused climate change.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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