New Mexico is experiencing a forest fire that could soon set the new record for the worst blaze in the state's history, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
The US Forest Service said the wildfire in Gila National Forest — the result of of two lightning-sparked fires merging together — had grown to about 152,000 acres by Tuesday, just 5,000 acres away from breaking the state record.
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Over 1,100 firefighters and nine state helicopters are working to control the flames, but officials told MSNBC the recent low humidity was making the fire more difficult to reign in.
“The area has been in extreme drought the last couple of years,” Fire Information Officer Arlene Perea told the Los Angeles Times. “The drought and weather dry out grasses and contribute to the fuel.”
Strong winds kept crews from making progress, and the fore rapidly spread, burning down several homes in the community of Willow Creek, which is still under evacuation, the AP reported. Smoke also spread across the state and into parts of Arizona, putting cities as far away as Albuquerque under health alerts, according to the AP.
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However, the winds have let up recently, allowing rescue workers to make some progress, the Times reported.
“We’ve had a break in the weather the last few days,” Perea said Tuesday. “It’s making it easier for us to [prepare] containment lines and take the punch out of any fire runs that might establish themselves.”
The state experienced a 157,000 acre blaze last year that currently holds the record for New Mexico's largest, MSNBC reported. That fire ravaged the property around Las Alamos National Laboratory, the United States' premier nuclear facility.