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The massive wildfire roaring in northeast New Mexico grew by about 9,000 acres Sunday, reaching 288,942 acres as crews worked on the ground and used aircraft to battle the blaze.
There were moderate winds in the area over the weekend, a break from the howling winds that have at times helped fuel the fire, according to a federal fire information system.
But the area also saw near record-breaking high temperatures and dry conditions.
Dave Gesser, one of the incident commanders on the fire, said that winds could pick up strength overnight Sunday and there is a chance for thunderstorms Monday.
“This has been challenging, unprecedented weather,” he said at a community meeting.
Jayson Coil, an operations section chief, said Sunday evening that ground crews and aircraft made progress on protective lines in the northeast section of the blaze. He said that the fire was becoming more active on its northwestern flank.
“That part of the fire is starting to be more active,” he said.
Residents of Bull Canyon, Cow Creek and Upper and Lower Colonias were told to evacuate Sunday, adding to the thousands of homes that have been evacuated as a result of the fire which has been burning for more than a month.
“It’s something I’ve been trying to prepare people for,” San Miguel County Sheriff Chris Lopez said of the new evacuation orders.
The Hermits Peak Fire started April 6 as a prescribed burn. But the fire broke containment and merged with the Calf Canyon Fire, creating one of the largest and most destructive fire complexes in the state’s history. It’s currently the largest active fire in the country.
The fire was 36% contained on Sunday.
There are nearly 2,000 personnel and several incident management teams assigned to different sections of the massive blaze.
The fire stretches east of Las Vegas, New Mexico, north through the town of Mora all the way to Chacon and Guadalupita.
Meanwhile, a fire burning east of Jemez was at 45,602 acres Sunday, which is about how big the fire was Friday.
That fire started April 22 and was 40% contained on Sunday.