As people evacuated, flames swept through parched forests and firefighters tried to save homes from a blaze that scorched a 45-mile-long path in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in just over a month.
Families in Taos Canyon and Angel Fire Ski Resort piled their belongings into cars and trailers after they were told to get ready to leave.
“It’s possible, with the models we’re using, that these areas are seeing fire,” Todd Abel, a battalion commander with the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, said during a briefing.
In immediate danger is the village of Chacon where villagers have stayed to defend the homes that have been in their families since the Spanish-Mexican land grants of the 1820s, when the area was not yet part of the United States.
“There’s a lot of fire heading in that direction, so I strongly recommend people evacuate,” Abel said.
Northern New Mexico is caught in its worst drought in at least 500 years. Climate change has reduced snow accumulations and dried up high mountain forests and valleys, scientists say.
A century of fire suppression and judicial bans on logging since the 1990s have left the forests overcrowded and overfueled, biologists say.
The so-called Hermits Peak Calf Canyon fire has destroyed forests and watersheds used by Indo-Hispanic farmers and pastoralist villages who have relied on them for centuries for logging, firewood and irrigation .
It now threatens the forests where the Picuris Pueblo and Taos Pueblo Native American tribes have hunted and harvested building materials for about 1,000 years.
The fire burned hundreds of homes and more than 95,881 acres of land, an area larger than the five boroughs of New York City. It is 33% content.