Biden declares disaster in New Mexico wildfire zone

Albuquerque, N.M.: Firefighters slowed the advance of the largest wildfire in the U.S. as heavy winds relented Wednesday, while President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration that brings new financial resources to remote stretches of northern New Mexico devastated by the blaze.

U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez announced the presidential disaster declaration during an evening briefing by the U.S. Forest Service about efforts to contain the fire, which has fanned out across 250 square miles of high alpine forest and grasslands at the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains.

“It will help us do that rebuilding and it will help us with the expenses and the hardship that people are facing right now,” the congresswoman said. “We’re glad it happened this quickly.”

Fire bosses said they are seizing upon an interlude of relatively calm and cool weather to keep the fire from pushing any closer to the small New Mexico city of Las Vegas and other villages scattered along the fire’s shifting fronts. Airplanes and helicopters strategically dropped slurries of red fire retardant from the sky, as ground crews cleared timber and brush to starve the fire along crucial fronts.

Bulldozers for days have been scraping fire lines on the outskirts of Las Vegas, a population of about 13,000, while crews have been conducting burns to clear vegetation along the dozer lines. Aircraft dropped more fire retardant as the second line of defense along a ridge just west of town in preparation for intense winds expected over the weekend. On the northern flank of the big New Mexico fire, authorities said fire lines have kept the flames from crossing the towns of Cleveland and Mora.

Image courtesy of (Image Courtesy: AP)

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