New Mexico confronts 'dangerously early' 2022 wildfire season – USA TODAY

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With hundreds of structures already lost amid a growing number of wind-driven wildfires across drought-stricken New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned Saturday of a long and potentially devastating wildfire season.
Over 20 wildfires were burning in at least 16 of the state’s 33 counties, in the wake of winds that gusted up to 90 mph on Friday, Lujan Grisham said during an online news conference. 
“So half the state has a fire issue,” she said.
With so many fires burning in April, well before the normal May or June start of the wildfire season, “our risk season is incredibly and dangerously early,” the governor said.
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Wildfire has become a year-round threat in the West given changing conditions that include earlier snowmelt and rain coming later in the fall, scientists have said. The 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.
As of Saturday, New Mexico had the most major wildfires burning of any state, though neighboring Arizona also had large fires including the Tunnel Fire near Flagstaff that burned 30 homes earlier this week.
Winds and temperatures in New Mexico diminished Saturday but remained strong enough to fan the flames, and dozens of evacuation orders remained in place.
Over 200 structures have burned, Lujan Grisham said, not providing specifics on locations or the numbers of homes included in that count.
“You need to leave. The risks are too great,” she said.
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The largest blazes were concentrated in northern New Mexico, where two major fires merged and numerous villages were threatened by advancing flames as residents heeded calls to leave.
Wind-blown clouds of dust and plumes of smoke obscured the skies near the fires, said Jesus Romero, assistant county manager for San Miguel County.
“All the ugliness that spring in New Mexico brings – that’s what they’re dealing in,” he said.
An estimated 500 homes in San Miguel were in rural areas of Mora and San Miguel counties covered by evacuation orders or warning notices, Romero said.


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