Wind-whipped flames raced across more of New Mexico’s pine-covered mountainsides on Monday, closing in on a town of 13,000 people where some residents hurried to pack their cars with belongings, others hustled to clear brush from around their homes, and police were called in to help evacuate the state’s psychiatric hospital.Property
Firefighting crews battled on several fronts to keep the fire, the largest burning in the U.S., from pushing into more populated areas as it fed on the state’s drought-parched landscape.
The fire has charred more than 217 square miles and flames could be seen from the small northeastern New Mexico city of Las Vegas just a couple miles away.
Fire officials said they were encouraged by a forecast for Tuesday of improving humidity and shifting winds. Still the blaze is expected to keep growing, putting it on track to possibly be one of the largest and most destructive in the state’s recorded history.
The sky above the city’s historic plaza, made famous as a backdrop in several movies and television series, was a sickly tinge of yellow and gray as thick smoke blotted out the sun.