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Record-setting New Mexico fire expected to burn for weeks

NM wildfire
© AP Photo/U.S. Forest Service
This image provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a May 29, 2012 photo, of the massive blaze in the Gila National Forest, seen from Neighbors Mountain directly east of Glenwood, N.M. Fire officials said Wednesday the wildfire has burned more than 265 square miles has become the largest fire in New Mexico history.
Reserve - A smoky haze hangs over the rugged canyons and tree-covered expanses of southwestern New Mexico as the largest wildfire in the state's recorded history marches across more of the Gila Wilderness.

The virtually unchecked wildfire is fueling experts' predictions that this is a preview of things to come as states across the West contend with a dangerous recipe of wind, low humidity and tinder-dry fuels.

The Whitewater-Baldy blaze has charred more than 190,000 acres, or nearly 300 square miles, in Gila National Forest and has become the largest wildfire burning in the country.

Gov. Susana Martinez viewed the fire from a New Mexico National Guard helicopter Thursday and saw the thick smoke shrouding some of the steep canyons that are inaccessible to firefighters. She described the terrain as "impossible," saying there was no way for firefighters to directly attack the flames in the rugged areas of wilderness.

"It's going to keep going up," she said of the acreage burned. "Be prepared for that."


Wildfires Hit Six U.S. States, Small Towns Evacuated

© Reuters/U.S. Forest Service
Smoke rises into the air from a large forest fire which has consumed a total of 82,252 acres as seen in this U.S. Forest Service handout photo taken in Gila National Forest, New Mexico May 25, 2012.
Santa Fe, New Mexico - A wildfire burned out of control for a fourth day in the steep mountains of southwestern New Mexico on Saturday, one of several blazes that have consumed more than 200 square miles (520 square km) of rugged land in six U.S. states.

Efforts to contain the blazes spreading in sparsely populated areas of Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah have been hurt by gusting winds and tinder-dry late-spring conditions.

Several small towns, including the historic Wild West mining town of Mogollon - now nearly a ghost town - were ordered to evacuate, as the spreading fire torched miles forest, brush and grass.

New Mexico's Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire, which was started by lightning 10 days ago, had raged across 82,252 acres as of Friday and officials said the area could now be much larger than that.

"We know that there was significant growth yesterday, but we don't have a hard and fast number," said Fire Information Officer Dan Ware.

More than 580 firefighters and support crew have been fighting the blaze.

"This is the biggest show in the country right now in terms of fire size. So a lot of resources are available to us. We're just not sure we'll be able to do a lot of flying," Ware said.

He said access to the fire had been the chief difficulty as it was burning in very steep, rugged terrain where firefighters were not able to cut through the brush and timber.

"Fire activity was so extreme yesterday we had to pull crews out," he said. "We're expecting another day like that today. With such high wind levels and low humidity there's going to be big potential for some major growth."


Clouds of Smoke, Ash from Forest Fire Lead to State of Emergency in Timmins

© The Canadian Press
A forest fire burns near Timmins, Ont. on Thursday, May 24, 2012.
Canada: Timmins, Ontario - A raging forest fire that's spewing smoke and ash toward Timmins has jumped Highway 144 southwest of the northern Ontario city.

And fire crews report a new fire on Highway 101 southwest of Timmins has forced the evacuation of the Old Mill campground.

The city of 43,000 is under a state of emergency and officials are on high alert.

Mayor Tom Laughren says more than 225 people have been evacuated from rural communities including Hydro Bay, Kamiskotia Highway and Cooks Lake.

Many have sought shelter with the Red Cross, while others are staying with friends or family.

That's in addition to an evacuation order for the nearby Mattagami First Nation that saw 118 residents relocate to Kapuskasing.

"I think the next 48 to 72 hours, from a fire perspective, as it relates to Timmins, will be critical," the mayor said Friday.

Laughren said he hopes the skies will clear up enough to allow water bombers to take on the flames.


Three Forest Fires Burn Out of Control in Alberta; Fire Ban in Effect

© Edmonton journal
Aerial photograph of a wildfire near Lodgepole taken by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development firefighters.
Canada - As firefighters work around the clock on three forest fires burning out of control in northern Alberta, officials issued a fire ban on Monday for most forested areas in the province.

"The wildfire situation in most of Alberta is serious," said Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen in a news release.

"Unfortunately, most of the wildfires we are fighting right now appear to be human-caused and therefore were 100 per cent preventable. It is very important that everyone take precautions to avoid starting fires - it is so dry and windy in many places that fires can start and spread very quickly."

Firefighters are trying to contain:

A 1,000-hectare blaze near the hamlet of Grassland in northeast Alberta.

A 650-hectare fire near Bonnyville in the eastern part of the province.

A fire half the size of the Bonnyville blaze, near Lodgepole, southwest of Edmonton.

The wind, along with warm, dry conditions, continue to pose the biggest challenge for firefighters, said Geoff Driscoll, a wildfire information officer.

"Certainly the one in Grassland grew the biggest yesterday, but the one near Bonnyville came out a little later in the evening and grew pretty big pretty fast," said Driscoll.


Fires from Long Island to Florida test crews

© MSNBC/Today Show
Brush fires fanned by gusty winds have been raging throughout the New York tri-state area, with one blaze injuring firefighters and destroying buildings on a swath of Long Island.
Dry and breezy conditions were fanning brush fires and wildfires up and down the East Coast, including one on Long Island, N.Y., where two blazes merged overnight, officials said Tuesday morning.

"The fire is not under control. It's burning heavily," NBCNewYork.com quoted Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone as saying at a press briefing. "We're putting as much water on it as we can."

The weather conditions made for "red flag warnings" along the East Coast, NBC weather anchor Al Roker said on TODAY. Areas from Long Island to Florida and as far west as Kentucky were under the advisory, which reflects extremely dangerous fire conditions.

In Long Island's Suffolk County, a state of emergency was declared Tuesday and mandatory evacuations were earlier ordered for an undetermined number of residents in Ridge and Manorville.


Colorado Wildfire Could Be Linked to Controlled Burn

© The Associated Press
Click Here to Watch Video
US: Conifer, Colorado - Firefighters were hoping to start containing at least part of a mountain wildfire Wednesday that forced hundreds of residents to flee, damaged 28 homes and may have caused the deaths of two people.

Strong gusts and erratic fire behavior forced crews to focus largely on protecting homes overnight instead of attacking the fire that broke out Monday, but more resources have been arriving.

The blaze is among the top in the nation for the priority to get firefighting resources, fire officials said late Tuesday.

Some 450 firefighters from Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah were sent to assist 250 firefighters on the ground. Weather permitting, four aircraft were scheduled to drop retardant Wednesday on the 7-square-mile blaze that resulted in mandatory evacuations of 900 homes south of the commuter town of Conifer, about 25 miles southwest of downtown Denver.

Residents of 6,500 more homes were warned Tuesday to be ready to leave because of the fire's behavior. Many homes are in winding canyons, and authorities wanted to give citizens as much advance warning as possible.

Meanwhile, investigators are trying to determine whether the fire reignited from a controlled burn that was meant to reduce vegetation that could fuel a devastating blaze around homes and watersheds.


Colorado Wildfire Kills 1, Chars Homes

© The Associated Press/Kris Garrett
A plume of smoke rises skyward over the top of a wildfire burning out of control near Conifer, Colo., March 26, 2012.
US: Conifer, Colorado - One person has been found dead in a Colorado wildfire that burned more than 4½ square miles and destroyed at least five homes in the mountains southwest of Denver, authorities said Monday.

The victim's name wasn't immediately released and investigators haven't said how the person died.

The fast-moving wildfire was reported at midday Monday and spread quickly amid dry, windy weather.

"We're in a defensive mode, structure protection only," Jefferson County Sheriff's spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said. "We're not really fighting the fire right now."

Kelley said authorities don't know how many houses were lost but said it was at least five and probably more than 10.

Authorities ordered residents of more than 900 homes to evacuate.

There were no other reports of injuries, but a sheriff's deputy who was alerting residents to leave was trapped in his patrol car after he inadvertently drove into a ditch in the thick smoke, Kelley said. He summoned help by radio.

Up to a dozen smaller fires were reported from the northeast Colorado plains to the southern part of the state. There were no immediate reports of injuries or structures destroyed in any of the other fires.


Twin threat: Cyclone, bushfires threaten Western Australia

Cyclone Iggy
© Bureau of Meteorology
Tropical Cyclone Iggy off the Western Australia coast
A tropical cyclone and major bushfires are posing a twin threat to travellers in Western Australia's central west.

Authorities are concerned holidaymakers from Perth and elsewhere may find themselves stranded.

The Fire and Emergency Services Authority had urged tourists to leave the Gascoyne region because flooding, linked to the approaching Cyclone Iggy, could cut off the highway to Perth.

But now bushfires have forced the closure of the highway, south of Carnarvon.


US, Nevada: Reno Brush Fire Stopped After Charring 20 Homes

© The Associated Press
Firefighters battle a wind-driven brush fire burning through Pleasant Valley, south of Reno, Nev., Jan. 19, 2012.
A brush fire fueled by 82 mph wind gusts burned more than 20 homes Thursday and forced thousands of people to evacuate their neighborhoods before firefighters stopped the flames' surge toward Reno.

About 2,000 people remained under evacuation orders late Thursday as 250 firefighters battled the blaze, said Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez, who warned that a full assessment might reveal even more damage.

There was one fatality in the fire area, Hernandez said, but he declined to provide more details, saying an autopsy would be needed to determine the cause of death.

The fire, of unknown origin, broke out shortly after noon in a valley along U.S. Highway 395. Soon, more than 10,000 people were told to flee their homes.


Chile battles 3 huge wildfires; 1 killed, tourists evacuated, losses in millions

Chile forest fire
© Associated Press
A helicopter works to dampen an area of the Torres del Paine national park in Torres del Paine, Chile
Firefighters in Chile battled three huge wildfires Monday that have burned about 90 square miles (23,000 hectares) of forest, destroyed more than 100 homes and have driven away thousands of tourists while causing millions of dollars in losses.

The fires also claimed their first victim: an elderly man who refused warnings to leave his home.

Chile's normally rainy southern regions are suffering from a nationwide heat wave, on top of a drought that makes fires increasingly likely. The country was battling 48 separate fires on Sunday alone, and red alerts were declared for the regions of Magallanes, Bio Bio and Maule.

"We have a situation of extreme vulnerability," said President Sebastian Pinera, who called for toughening sentences for arson.