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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s governor is asking for additional federal assistance to respond to wildfires burning across the state’s north, including one that is the second-largest in the state’s history and that officials estimate has destroyed hundreds of homes.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday in a letter to President Joe Biden that New Mexico needs more help than is being provided under the president’s recent disaster declaration.

The needed response, including immediate funding for debris removal and “a full range of emergency protective measures,” exceeds the state’s capabilities and the federal government should bear 100% of the costs because one part of the fire was ignited by wind-blown embers from a prescribed burn on the Santa Fe National Forest, the governor said.

That fire has since merged with another blaze and grown to 437 square miles (1,133 square kilometers). The 5-week-old combined fire for a time threatened the small New Mexico city of Las Vegas before being stopped just outside town in the past week. Fire crews continue to work to keep the fire from multiple rural communities.

Officials said Saturday that weather conditions still included unhelpful high temperatures and low humidity, but that less smoke had allowed firefighting aircraft to take to the skies for a second straight day to battle the blaze.

Wildfires have broken out this spring across multiple states in the western U.S., including California, Colorado and Arizona. Predictions for the rest of the spring do not bode well for the West, with drought and warmer weather brought on by climate change worsening wildfire danger.

Nationwide, more than 2,000 square miles (5,180 square kilometers) have burned so far this year — the most at this point since 2018, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

In Colorado, a fire burning southwest of Colorado Springs grew to 1.5 square miles (3.8 square kilometers) overnight and is 10% contained, officials from the Teller County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday morning.

The blaze, now known as the High Park Fire, broke out Thursday near the former mining town of Cripple Creek. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

By Thursday evening at least 120 people from 40 residences evacuated the area, the Teller County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook.

Officials say the fire could continue to grow as wind gusts are expected to reach as high as 35 mph (56 kph). Winds are expected to die down around 2 p.m. which could help firefighting efforts.

In New Mexico, the largest wildfire has a 500-mile (805-kilometer)) perimeter, longer than the distance between San Francisco and San Diego, and was just 27% contained. Another fire to the west near Los Alamos has burned 71 square miles (184 square kilometers) and was 23% contained.

Nearly 3,000 firefighters and other personnel are fighting the two fires.

Fire officials said the largest fire has destroyed at least 473 structures, including homes and other buildings. Lujan Grisham’s office on Friday provided an updated estimate that 262 homes had been destroyed but stressed that authorities have been unable to safely enter many burned areas to assess damage.

In other development, New Mexican House Republican leaders on Friday called for the state to join a federal investigation into the handling of the prescribed burn that started the worst blaze.

“It is our sincerest belief that the people of northern New Mexico deserve an impartial and detailed investigation conducted by parties other than those employed by the federal government,” the GOP lawmakers said in a letter to Lujan Grisham, a Democrat.

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Tags: county sheriff’s office county sheriff’s sheriff’s office the state’s the federal government square kilometers prescribed burn are expected in a letter officials said officials said said saturday has destroyed lujan grisham square miles the largest continue the fire

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Northern California Crews Prepare For Wildfire Season After Destructive Orange County Blaze

AUBURN (CBS13) — Northern California Cal Fire crews are preparing for fire season, taking note of the wind-driven coastal fire in Southern California Wednesday. The so-called Coastal Fire was burning in an upscale neighborhood in Laguna Niguel among multi-million dollar homes. The fire started as a 1-acre brush fire near a water treatment plant and quickly grew in size to around 200 acres burned. No one has been injured, in large part, according to firefighters, because they listened to evacuation orders.

The California Fire Safe Council Executive Director, Hedi Jalon, said the coastal fire is a reminder for Californians to prepare their homes early and year-round.

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“We’re seeing spread in ways we haven’t seen before, where maybe a fire like this would’ve grown to an acre or a couple acres. Now, it’s spreading and taking off very quickly,” said Jalon.

Jalon said the California Fire Safe Council outlines some of the key ways homeowners can protect their property and homes. As listed on the council’s website:

Key Elements of a Defensible Space
  • Keep your gutters and roofs clear of leaves and debris.
  • Maintain a 5-foot noncombustible zone around your home and deck.
  • Break up fuel by creating space between plants, and between the ground and the branches of trees.
  • Mow grass to a height of 4 inches.
  • Keep mulch away from the house. Bark mulch helps plants retain water but ignites and becomes flying embers during a wind-driven fire.
  • During a wildfire move anything burnable—such as patio furniture or gas BBQ tanks—30 feet away from structures.
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This is key preparation time for Cal Fire, too. Southern California teams responded to the Coastal Fire, and in Placer County, the Cal Fire Unit Chief said he was proud of the response because there were no deaths or major injuries and evacuations happened quickly and safely.

“More so than ever this year, ready to move forward, and we are prepared,” said Brian Estes, Cal Fire Unit Chief.

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Estes said residents in Northern California that live in areas more at-risk for fire must stay alert to warnings and evacuation notices, even in months that aren’t traditionally considered “fire season.”

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