Fires in Southwest force more evacuations

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Firefighters continued to battle destructive wildfires in America’s Southwest on Friday. 

In New Mexico, officials issued more evacuation orders, warning that high winds were pushing the Calf Canyon Fire into new areas. 

The U.S. Forest Service said Saturday that the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires – which merged last weekend – now have a combined acreage of 97,064 acres. 

The flames are 32% contained, with more than a thousand personnel on site. 

DANGEROUS FIRE WEATHER AROUND US THREATENS EFFORT TO CONTAIN BLAZES

The gusty conditions prevented any aerial attacks by midmorning on Friday, although there were no immediate reports of new structures lost. 

At least 166 homes have been destroyed in San Miguel County.

On Friday, more than 2,000 firefighters were fighting fires in both the Land of Enchantment and Arizona.

The Forest Service in the Copper State announced that fire and smoking restrictions would be in effect for the Coconino National Forest on May 5 and that the Flagstaff City Government would enter Stage 1 fire restrictions at the same time. 

The Tunnel Fire, to the north of Flagstaff, was 89% contained on Friday, and spanned 19,075 acres. 

A top-level national management team turned it back over to the local forest on Friday.

However, the fire had already destroyed at least 30 homes and forced hundreds to evacuate. 

MILLIONS MUST CUT WATER USE IN DROUGHT-STRICKEN CALIFORNIA

Some residents near another fire 10 miles south of Prescott haven’t been allowed back home. 

The Crooks Fire is 38% contained and stretches 9,393 acres.

Lighter winds were expected into the weekend there, but low humidity will be a concern, fire officials said.

Red flag warnings were in place Friday for nearly all of New Mexico and parts of Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

The fires are burning unusually hot and fast for this time of year.

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.

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

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.

Mojtaba Sadira

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