June 2016 – CALIFORNIA – Firefighters worked into early Friday morning to try to contain a growing wildfire in coastal Southern California and a larger blaze in rural New Mexico as hot weather fed flames that triggered hundreds of evacuations. The Sherpa Fire in California grew to about 1,400 acres (560 hectares) overnight after forcing authorities to evacuate 400 homes and businesses and to close part of the 101 Freeway, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and fire information center InciWeb.
About 1,200 firefighters were trying to keep the fire from exploding out of control as airplane tankers and helicopters dropped water, according to officials and online videos. The blaze, which ignited on Wednesday in a wilderness area northwest of Santa Barbara, has consumed chaparral and tall grass in the Los Padres National Forest, according to InciWeb. Because of the fire, officials said they had closed two state beaches and some ranch land, forcing out campers and horses. Southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Dog Head Fire, which broke out on Tuesday about 6 miles (10 km) northwest of the town of Tajique, has also forced evacuations and grown to about 16,000 acres (6,500 hectares) overnight.
Governor Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency and ordered the state’s National Guard to be prepared to assist if needed, according to a statement from her office. The fire destroyed 24 homes and 21 other structures, InciWeb said. The blaze has burned through timber in central New Mexico, pushing heavy smoke toward cities more than 100 miles (160 km) away as flames spread through a largely unpopulated area, state fire information officer Peter D’Aquanni said in a phone interview on Thursday. D’Aquanni said winds could shift the flames to the east as more than 600 firefighters tackle the blaze.
Torrance County Sheriff Heath White said on Thursday that his office was evacuating about 200 people. The National Weather Service on Friday predicted dry, windy and hot weather for the region through next week, which could lead to more wildfires. The weather service issued excessive heat warnings for areas in the U.S. Southwest, including California, Nevada and Arizona and New Mexico. Its forecast office in Phoenix predicted temperatures as high as 119 degrees Fahrenheit (48.3 Celsius) in the coming days, which would exceed record highs. –Reuters