(Daily Mail) Three wildfires have scorched tens of thousands of acres and forced thousands to flee their homes as they burn unchecked near Los Angeles and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
By Sunday morning, the Powerhouse Fire around the Angeles National Forest in Southern California engulfed more than 20,000 acres, endangering 1,000 homes in the Lake Elizabeth and Lake Hughes area.
Nearly 1,000 firefighters struggled to contain the fire, which more than tripled in size overnight. More than 2,000 people have been evacuated and the blaze has already destroyed five homes.
At the same, the Tres Lagunas Fire in the Pecos wilderness in the Sanata Fe National forest near Santa Fe, New Mexico, has consumed 6,200 acres and forced residents of 150 homes – as well as several campgrounds – to flee the area. Another 1,200 acres was set ablaze by the Thompson Ridge Fire in the nearby Valles Caldera National Preserve.
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Inferno: The Powerhouse wildfire at the Angeles National Forest engulfs as home on Saturday night. At least five houses have been destroyed by the massive blaze
Working in vain: Nearly 1,000 firefighters struggled the bring the massive Powerhouse wildfire under control. By Sunday morning, just 20percent of it had been contained
Dangerous work: Three firefighters have been injured while trying to contain the blaze. The inferno has burned 31 square miles
Inferno: The massive blaze more than tripled in size in the early hours of Sunday morning – despite the heroic attempts of firefighters
The western wildfires are hundreds of mile apart, but spread for all the same reasons. Record heat and low humidity turns ground brush into a tinderbox – ready for ignition.
It is unclear what caused the Powerhouse and Thompson Ridge fires, though the Tres Lobos blaze in Pecos Canyon appears to have been sparked by a downed power line, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.
The dry ground cover and strong, erratic winds whipped the wildfires into furious infernos.
The Powerhouse Fire, which started four days ago, spread rapidly on early Sunday as firefighters tried in vain to bring it until control. As the sun set on Saturday, the fire had burned about 5,500 acres. It was only 3,600 acres Saturday afternoon.
But sunrise, it had spread to 19,500 acres – more than 30 square miles.
Daytime temperatures topped 105 degrees – making it difficult for fire crews to work to isolate the blaze.
Residents in Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth were forced to pack what they could and flee the fire late Saturday.
Haze: The Thompson Ridge blaze turned the sky in Pecos, New Mexico, orange. Two wildfires in the Pecos wilderness have consumed a total of 7,400 acres
The Tres Lagunas Fire – another New Mexico wildfire – threatens campgrounds and about 150 homes in the Pecos Canyon
A resident of Jemenez Springs, New Mexico, watches the Thompson Ridge fire engulf hundreds of acres in the Pecos wilderness
One fire: The three wildfires were hundreds of miles apart, though they all had the same cause – record high temperatures, low humidity and strong, erratic winds
‘It’s going to be very hot and dry with not a whole lot of wind,’ National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Sukup told the Los Angeles Times.
Patty Robitaille, 61, recalls throwing together family pictures and documents and hastily loading them, and her dog into her car. The fire, she said, kept coming closer and closer before she fled.
‘Driving away, you could see the town burning up. I don’t think there’s going to be much left,’ she told the Times.
Firefighters risked their lives in an attempt to drive back the flames. Several people had to be rescued from their houses as the inferno crept closer to civilization.
At one point on Saturday night, a fire station was entirely surrounded by the forest fire and crews were forced to fire their way out of danger.
By Sunday morning, firefighters had gained a foothold on the fire and brought 20percet of it under control.
Firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and Los Angeles County said it would be at least two more days before the blaze could be entirely contained.
Firefighters said they had 20percent of the Powerhouse fire contained by Sunday morning
No way out: A wooden bridge erupted in flames near Lakes Hughes, California, as five homes were burned to the ground
Losing battle: Firefighters struggled through the night against the fire, but were hindered by shifting winds that changed the direction of the blaze and made the flames even more intense
A chimney is all that was left standing from after a wildfire set this house ablaze near the Angeles National Forest
Meanwhile in New Mexico, officials said an uncontained blaze near in Pecos Canyon in Santa Fe had spread to 6,200 acres. Crews had gained a 5percent foothold on the fire, though they lost even that on Saturday evening, as the blaze blew out of control. The thick smoke covered the Gallinas Canyon, Pecos and Las Vegas, New Mexico.
New Mexico fire crews got some respite on Saturday, as winds died down – allowing crews to begin using helicopters and tanker airplanes to drop water and fire retardant on the blaze.
Officials have evacuated about 134 summer homes, 10 campgrounds and six trailheads surrounding the fire. The area is sparsely populated and no houses had been destroyed as of Saturday night.
The wind is expected to die down and the humidity is expected to rise on Sunday – making it easier for firefighters to control the blaze
The Lake Hughes area of Los Angeles County as especially hard hit. One fleeing resident said she doesn’t expect her home to be there when she returns
Hellish: The inferno produced nightmarish scenes of arching fire, thanks to high winds that whipped the blaze into a frenzy
A helicopter is barely visible amid the smoke as it drops water on the forest fire near Lake Hughes
The state Department of Health warned residents in the Pecos, Santa Fe and Espanola areas to prepare for smoke and take precautions by avoiding prolonged or physical activity outdoors.
‘Potentially unhealthy conditions could occur in these communities overnight and into the early morning,’ a statement released by health officials said.
Another New Mexico blaze, the Thompson Ridge fire near Jemez Springs, had grown to about one square mile, state forestry officials said.
Between 40 and 50 homes in the area were evacuated as around 80 crew members and a helicopter arrived to help fight the blaze.
Fleeing: Residents sped away from the Powerhouse blaze as it crept every-closer to civilization. At one point, a local fire station was entirely surrounded by flames