The Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires in northern New Mexico have merged, fire officials said Saturday morning.
The fire complex has burned more than 42,300 acres, according to the Santa Fe National Forest.
Jason Coil, an operations section chief with the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, said fire conditions on Friday were “catastrophic” and are expected to continue on Saturday.
“You can’t see even in the middle of the day,” Coil said. “There’s embers falling all around you, the smoke has pushed all the way down to the valley floors because of the winds. And if you choose to stay in that environment, it’s not likely that you’ll get out of there.”
Firefighters are focused on saving homes that have not burned, Coil said, and the team doesn’t “know the magnitude of the structure loss.”
“We haven’t had the opportunity to get in there (to evaluate),” he said. “Right now it’s not safe … We’ll get people in there when it’s safe to do so.”
Rapid fire growth has forced widespread evacuations and road closures across San Miguel and Mora counties.
On Saturday morning, an electronic road sign on I-25 leading into Las Vegas warned travelers that there is no fuel in Mora, and advised drivers to plan ahead.
Saturday is another critical fire weather day.
“There’s concerns about the fire continuing to push to the north and to the east and closer to Mora,” Coil said. “And we’re also concerned about the fire moving further to the east more quickly than we’re able to prepare Highway 518 for control.”
Crews will work to keep the fire north of Upper Gallinas Canyon and prevent it from moving further into the watershed that supplies Las Vegas.
Firefighters will also work to push the fire west of Highway 518.
The Hermits Peak Fire about 12 miles northwest of Las Vegas began as a prescribed fire on April 6.