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New Mexico wildfires close down three national forests

The Santa Fe National Forest is one of three national forests in New Mexico that have been partially or fully closed due to wildfire activity. Photo courtesy of the Santa Fe National Forest
The Santa Fe National Forest is one of three national forests in New Mexico that have been partially or fully closed due to wildfire activity. Photo courtesy of the Santa Fe National Forest

May 19 (UPI) -- Wildfires throughout New Mexico have led the U.S. Forest Service to partially or fully shutter three national forests in the northern and western parts of the state.

The fires completely closed the Carson National Forest, located mostly in Rio Arriba and Taos counties, and the nearby Santa Fe National Forest, also located in Rio Arriba County, and other northern counties.

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Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands, located farther to the south and west in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, had partial closures within the Mount Taylor, Mountainair and Sandia ranger districts, according to the Forest Service.

The largest wildfire in state history, the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire has burned more than 300,000 acres as of Thursday morning with 34% containment. It was sparked April 6 just northwest of Las Vegas, N.M., and leading to the closure of the Carson and Santa Fe forests.

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Fire officials said the area was under a red flag warning due to hot and dry conditions with winds from 15 mph to 20 mph and gusts up to 35 mph. Local officials urged residents in San Miguel, Mora, Taos and Colfax counties to be on high alert for possible evacuation orders.

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"The hot and dry conditions we're experiencing pose a dire risk for wildfires to quickly ignite and spread rapidly," said Carson National Forest Supervisor James Duran. "Community compliance will be essential for our success in protecting the forest amid these conditions."

To the south, the Bear Trap Fire is located about 22 miles southwest of Magdalena, N.M., in the vicinity of Chibola National Forest and National Grasslands, and the San Mateo Mountains. The blaze, which has burned more than 17,000 acres with 28% containment, was first reported May 1.

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Officials said historically hot, dry conditions have made fighting the blaze difficult, with windier conditions expected Thursday.

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