President declares disaster in New Mexico wildfire zone

A firefighting plane flies over a plume of smoke near Las Vegas, N.M. on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. The fire has torched 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

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A firefighting plane flies over a plume of smoke near Las Vegas, N.M. on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. The fire has torched 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Firefighters have slowed the advance of the largest wildfire in the U.S. as heavy winds relented

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — 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 New Mexico devastated by fire since early April.

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 sprawling wildfire in northeastern New Mexico, which has fanned out across 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) 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 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, population 13,000, while crews have been conducting burns to clear adjacent vegetation. Aircraft dropped more fire retardant as a second line of defense along a ridge just west of town in preparation for intense winds expected over the weekend.

An estimated 15,500 homes in outlying areas and in the valleys of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that border Las Vegas have been affected by mandatory evacuations. The tally of homes destroyed by the fire stands around 170.

The president's disaster declaration releases emergency funds to recovery efforts in three counties in northeastern New Mexico where fires still rage, as well as portions of southern New Mexico where wind-driven blazes killed two people and destroyed over 200 homes in mid-April.

The aid includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other relief programs for individuals and businesses, a statement from the White House said.

Local law enforcement officials acknowledged the physical and emotion toll of prolonged evacuations. Las Vegas Police Chief Antonio Salazar said his officers would provide “burglary patrols” of evacuated areas and help maintain order at a local Walmart as people line up to purchase supplies.

“Repopulation, that's one thing we're very interested in,” San Miguel County Sheriff Chris Lopez said. “Everybody wants to get back home.”

Dan Pearson, a fire behavior specialist with the federal government, said weather forecasters are anticipating two days of relatively light winds before the return of strong spring gales.

“Our prayers are working because we've had advantageous winds throughout the fire area today,” he said. “We'll take advantage of this fact over the next few days. ... What we can do is build resilient pockets."

The fire was contained across just 20% of its perimeter. Its flames on Wednesday were about a mile (1.6 kilometers) away from Las Vegas, where schools were closed as residents braced for possible evacuation.

Officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory were warily tracking another wildfire that crept Wednesday within about 5 miles (8 kilometers) of facilities at the U.S. national defense laboratory based in Los Alamos.

Fire crews worked to widen a road that stands between the fire and Los Alamos while clearing out underbrush and treating the area with fire retardant.

Wildfires have become a year-round threat in the drought-stricken West — moving faster and burning hotter than ever due to climate change, scientists and fire experts say. Fire officials also point to overgrown areas where vegetation can worsen wildfire conditions.

Nationally, the National Interagency Fire Center reported Wednesday that a dozen uncontained large fires have burned about 436 square miles (1,129 square kilometers) in five states.

___

Montoya Bryan reported from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Associated Press writers Paul Davenport in Phoenix and Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, contributed to this report. Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.

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A slurry bomber dumps the fire retardant between the Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak Fire and homes on the westside of Las Vegas, N.M., Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Several types of aircraft joined the fight to keep the fire away for the Northern New Mexico town. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Credit: Eddie Moore

A slurry bomber dumps the fire retardant between the Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak Fire and homes on the westside of Las Vegas, N.M., Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Several types of aircraft joined the fight to keep the fire away for the Northern New Mexico town. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Credit: Eddie Moore

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A slurry bomber dumps the fire retardant between the Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak Fire and homes on the westside of Las Vegas, N.M., Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Several types of aircraft joined the fight to keep the fire away for the Northern New Mexico town. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Credit: Eddie Moore

Credit: Eddie Moore

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A CL-415 enhanced aerial firefighter, better known as a Super Scooper, makes numerous bombing runs to drop water on the Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak Fire burning near Luna Community College southwest of Las Vegas, N.M., Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Credit: Eddie Moore

A CL-415 enhanced aerial firefighter, better known as a Super Scooper, makes numerous bombing runs to drop water on the Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak Fire burning near Luna Community College southwest of Las Vegas, N.M., Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Credit: Eddie Moore

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A CL-415 enhanced aerial firefighter, better known as a Super Scooper, makes numerous bombing runs to drop water on the Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak Fire burning near Luna Community College southwest of Las Vegas, N.M., Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Credit: Eddie Moore

Credit: Eddie Moore

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Leonard Padilla and 5-year-old Ivan Padilla watch a wildfire burning near Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Leonard Padilla and 5-year-old Ivan Padilla watch a wildfire burning near Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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Leonard Padilla and 5-year-old Ivan Padilla watch a wildfire burning near Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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A firefighting airplane drops slurry on a wildfire near Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

A firefighting airplane drops slurry on a wildfire near Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
A firefighting airplane drops slurry on a wildfire near Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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Smoke rises on a ridge behind homes on the outskirts of Las Vegas, N.M., on May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Smoke rises on a ridge behind homes on the outskirts of Las Vegas, N.M., on May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
Smoke rises on a ridge behind homes on the outskirts of Las Vegas, N.M., on May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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Martina Gonzales and her grandson, Lukas Lee Mora, 4, walk outside of their home in Las Vegas, N.M., as a plume of smoke rises in the distance Tuesday, May, 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. Gonzales and her husband have packed up their valuables and are ready to leave the area if the fire tops the ridge behind their house. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Martina Gonzales and her grandson, Lukas Lee Mora, 4, walk outside of their home in Las Vegas, N.M., as a plume of smoke rises in the distance Tuesday, May, 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. Gonzales and her husband have packed up their valuables and are ready to leave the area if the fire tops the ridge behind their house. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
Martina Gonzales and her grandson, Lukas Lee Mora, 4, walk outside of their home in Las Vegas, N.M., as a plume of smoke rises in the distance Tuesday, May, 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. Gonzales and her husband have packed up their valuables and are ready to leave the area if the fire tops the ridge behind their house. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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A fire warning sign is pictured in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides, Tuesday, May 3, 2030, charring more than 217 square miles over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

A fire warning sign is pictured in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides, Tuesday, May 3, 2030, charring more than 217 square miles over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
A fire warning sign is pictured in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides, Tuesday, May 3, 2030, charring more than 217 square miles over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
Martina Gonzales and her grandson, Lukas Lee Mora, 4, in their home in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May, 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. Gonzales and her husband have packed up their valuables and are ready to leave the area if the fire tops the ridge behind their house. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Martina Gonzales and her grandson, Lukas Lee Mora, 4, in their home in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May, 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. Gonzales and her husband have packed up their valuables and are ready to leave the area if the fire tops the ridge behind their house. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
Martina Gonzales and her grandson, Lukas Lee Mora, 4, in their home in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May, 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. Gonzales and her husband have packed up their valuables and are ready to leave the area if the fire tops the ridge behind their house. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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In this Sunday, May 1, 2022 photo provided by Jasper Bivens of Grayback Forestry, plumes of smoke from wildfires are seen from Highway 518, a few miles north of Las Vegas, N.M. New Mexico was in the bull's eye for the nation's latest wave of hot, dry and windy weather. (Jasper Bives via AP)

Credit: Jasper Bivens

In this Sunday, May 1, 2022 photo provided by Jasper Bivens of Grayback Forestry, plumes of smoke from wildfires are seen from Highway 518, a few miles north of Las Vegas, N.M. New Mexico was in the bull's eye for the nation's latest wave of hot, dry and windy weather. (Jasper Bives via AP)

Credit: Jasper Bivens

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In this Sunday, May 1, 2022 photo provided by Jasper Bivens of Grayback Forestry, plumes of smoke from wildfires are seen from Highway 518, a few miles north of Las Vegas, N.M. New Mexico was in the bull's eye for the nation's latest wave of hot, dry and windy weather. (Jasper Bives via AP)

Credit: Jasper Bivens

Credit: Jasper Bivens

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Anthony Johnson and his grandson, Lukas Lee Mora, 4, in their home in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May, 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. Johnson and his wife have packed up their valuables and are ready to leave the area if the fire tops the ridge behind their house. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Anthony Johnson and his grandson, Lukas Lee Mora, 4, in their home in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May, 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. Johnson and his wife have packed up their valuables and are ready to leave the area if the fire tops the ridge behind their house. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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Anthony Johnson and his grandson, Lukas Lee Mora, 4, in their home in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May, 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. Johnson and his wife have packed up their valuables and are ready to leave the area if the fire tops the ridge behind their house. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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Ranch owner Kenny Zamora inspects cattle moved to his ranch by area residents fleeing wildfires outside Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday, May 2, 2022. Zamora says over 200 animals are on the property, with owners coming and going. County officials and charity groups are donating equipment and feed for the animals. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

Ranch owner Kenny Zamora inspects cattle moved to his ranch by area residents fleeing wildfires outside Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday, May 2, 2022. Zamora says over 200 animals are on the property, with owners coming and going. County officials and charity groups are donating equipment and feed for the animals. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

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Ranch owner Kenny Zamora inspects cattle moved to his ranch by area residents fleeing wildfires outside Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday, May 2, 2022. Zamora says over 200 animals are on the property, with owners coming and going. County officials and charity groups are donating equipment and feed for the animals. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

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Security guards with the United States Forest Service stand at the entrance to a fire camp in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Security guards with the United States Forest Service stand at the entrance to a fire camp in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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Security guards with the United States Forest Service stand at the entrance to a fire camp in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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This photo provided by Renee Valdez shows plumes of smoke rising into the air, from wildfires in Las Vegas, N.M. on Monday, May 2, 2022. New Mexico was in the bull's eye for the nation's latest wave of hot, dry and windy weather. (Renee Valdez via The AP)

Credit: Renee Valdez

This photo provided by Renee Valdez shows plumes of smoke rising into the air, from wildfires in Las Vegas, N.M. on Monday, May 2, 2022. New Mexico was in the bull's eye for the nation's latest wave of hot, dry and windy weather. (Renee Valdez via The AP)

Credit: Renee Valdez

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This photo provided by Renee Valdez shows plumes of smoke rising into the air, from wildfires in Las Vegas, N.M. on Monday, May 2, 2022. New Mexico was in the bull's eye for the nation's latest wave of hot, dry and windy weather. (Renee Valdez via The AP)

Credit: Renee Valdez

Credit: Renee Valdez

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Brianna Valencia-Encinias and her son Lucas Encinias, 8, walk their 4-H goats in a field in Las Vegas, N.M., as the Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak Fire burns southwest of town, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Their family had been evacuated from Rociada and are now staying at her grandparent's farm along with their chickens, goats, horses, dogs and other animals. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Credit: Eddie Moore

Brianna Valencia-Encinias and her son Lucas Encinias, 8, walk their 4-H goats in a field in Las Vegas, N.M., as the Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak Fire burns southwest of town, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Their family had been evacuated from Rociada and are now staying at her grandparent's farm along with their chickens, goats, horses, dogs and other animals. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Credit: Eddie Moore

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Brianna Valencia-Encinias and her son Lucas Encinias, 8, walk their 4-H goats in a field in Las Vegas, N.M., as the Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak Fire burns southwest of town, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Their family had been evacuated from Rociada and are now staying at her grandparent's farm along with their chickens, goats, horses, dogs and other animals. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Credit: Eddie Moore

Credit: Eddie Moore

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Harold Sena, of Tierra Monte, walks his cow, Jody, at the Zamora Ranch outside Las Vegas, N.M., on Monday, May 2, 2022. Sena bathed the cow regularly, making it white for state fairs, now it's one of the livestock refugees at the ranch due to wildfires in the are. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

Harold Sena, of Tierra Monte, walks his cow, Jody, at the Zamora Ranch outside Las Vegas, N.M., on Monday, May 2, 2022. Sena bathed the cow regularly, making it white for state fairs, now it's one of the livestock refugees at the ranch due to wildfires in the are. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

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Harold Sena, of Tierra Monte, walks his cow, Jody, at the Zamora Ranch outside Las Vegas, N.M., on Monday, May 2, 2022. Sena bathed the cow regularly, making it white for state fairs, now it's one of the livestock refugees at the ranch due to wildfires in the are. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

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A burned building is seen in the Pendaries Village following a wildfire near Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday, May 2, 2022. Wind-whipped flames are marching across more of New Mexico's tinder-dry mountainsides, forcing the evacuation of area residents and dozens of patients from the state's psychiatric hospital as firefighters scramble to keep new wildfires from growing. The big blaze burning near the community of Las Vegas has charred more than 217 square miles. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

A burned building is seen in the Pendaries Village following a wildfire near Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday, May 2, 2022. Wind-whipped flames are marching across more of New Mexico's tinder-dry mountainsides, forcing the evacuation of area residents and dozens of patients from the state's psychiatric hospital as firefighters scramble to keep new wildfires from growing. The big blaze burning near the community of Las Vegas has charred more than 217 square miles. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

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A burned building is seen in the Pendaries Village following a wildfire near Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday, May 2, 2022. Wind-whipped flames are marching across more of New Mexico's tinder-dry mountainsides, forcing the evacuation of area residents and dozens of patients from the state's psychiatric hospital as firefighters scramble to keep new wildfires from growing. The big blaze burning near the community of Las Vegas has charred more than 217 square miles. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

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A burned car and piece of machinery are seen following a wildfire near Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday, May 2, 2022. Wind-whipped flames are marching across more of New Mexico's tinder-dry mountainsides, forcing the evacuation of area residents and dozens of patients from the state's psychiatric hospital as firefighters scramble to keep new wildfires from growing. The big blaze burning near the community of Las Vegas has charred more than 217 square miles. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

A burned car and piece of machinery are seen following a wildfire near Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday, May 2, 2022. Wind-whipped flames are marching across more of New Mexico's tinder-dry mountainsides, forcing the evacuation of area residents and dozens of patients from the state's psychiatric hospital as firefighters scramble to keep new wildfires from growing. The big blaze burning near the community of Las Vegas has charred more than 217 square miles. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

caption arrowCaption
A burned car and piece of machinery are seen following a wildfire near Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday, May 2, 2022. Wind-whipped flames are marching across more of New Mexico's tinder-dry mountainsides, forcing the evacuation of area residents and dozens of patients from the state's psychiatric hospital as firefighters scramble to keep new wildfires from growing. The big blaze burning near the community of Las Vegas has charred more than 217 square miles. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

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A burned golf cart is seen in an RV park following a wildfire near Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday, May 2, 2022. Wind-whipped flames are marching across more of New Mexico's tinder-dry mountainsides, forcing the evacuation of area residents and dozens of patients from the state's psychiatric hospital as firefighters scramble to keep new wildfires from growing. The big blaze burning near the community of Las Vegas has charred more than 217 square miles. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

A burned golf cart is seen in an RV park following a wildfire near Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday, May 2, 2022. Wind-whipped flames are marching across more of New Mexico's tinder-dry mountainsides, forcing the evacuation of area residents and dozens of patients from the state's psychiatric hospital as firefighters scramble to keep new wildfires from growing. The big blaze burning near the community of Las Vegas has charred more than 217 square miles. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

caption arrowCaption
A burned golf cart is seen in an RV park following a wildfire near Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Monday, May 2, 2022. Wind-whipped flames are marching across more of New Mexico's tinder-dry mountainsides, forcing the evacuation of area residents and dozens of patients from the state's psychiatric hospital as firefighters scramble to keep new wildfires from growing. The big blaze burning near the community of Las Vegas has charred more than 217 square miles. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

Credit: Cedar Attanasio

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Spot fires burn near Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Spot fires burn near Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
Spot fires burn near Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Flames raced across more of New Mexico's pine-covered mountainsides Tuesday, charring more than 217 square miles (562 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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A group of firefighters from Apple Valley, Calif., eat breakfast outside the historic Plaza Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Firefighters from all over the country have converged on the small community to battle a wildfire that has burned 250 square miles (647 square kilometers). (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

A group of firefighters from Apple Valley, Calif., eat breakfast outside the historic Plaza Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Firefighters from all over the country have converged on the small community to battle a wildfire that has burned 250 square miles (647 square kilometers). (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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A group of firefighters from Apple Valley, Calif., eat breakfast outside the historic Plaza Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, New Mexico, on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Firefighters from all over the country have converged on the small community to battle a wildfire that has burned 250 square miles (647 square kilometers). (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

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Smoke and dust sweep across a field near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. A fire in the area has torched 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Smoke and dust sweep across a field near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. A fire in the area has torched 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
Smoke and dust sweep across a field near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. A fire in the area has torched 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
A firefighting plane drops water over a plume of smoke near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. The fire has torched 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

A firefighting plane drops water over a plume of smoke near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. The fire has torched 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
A firefighting plane drops water over a plume of smoke near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. The fire has torched 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
Smoke and dust sweep across a field near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. A fire in the area has torched 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Smoke and dust sweep across a field near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. A fire in the area has torched 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
Smoke and dust sweep across a field near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. A fire in the area has torched 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) over the last several weeks. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
A helitack crew is briefed at the municipal airport near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Helicopter crews fighting a massive wildfire in the area were grounded much of Wednesday because of high winds. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

A helitack crew is briefed at the municipal airport near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Helicopter crews fighting a massive wildfire in the area were grounded much of Wednesday because of high winds. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

caption arrowCaption
A helitack crew is briefed at the municipal airport near Las Vegas, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Helicopter crews fighting a massive wildfire in the area were grounded much of Wednesday because of high winds. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Credit: Thomas Peipert

Credit: Thomas Peipert