High winds and abnormally high temperatures continued to fuel wildfires on Monday in New Mexico, where a string of fires, a spate of them one of the largest in the state’s history, have swamped communities and prompted evacuations.

The Hermits Peak Calf Canyon fire, larger than the city of Chicago, may have been contained to the east, but is racing north across countryside that has a deep religious significance to the Indian-Hispanic towns founded two hundred years ago.

The fire destroyed hundreds of homes and other structures about 35 miles long and prompted evacuation orders for 12.000 homes in San Miguel and Mora counties.

After more than a month filled with forest fires, residents in Taos County were forced to prepare for evacuation Monday for the first time, as the fire affected the villages of Angostura and Tres Ritos, and Sipapu Ski District about 15 miles south of Taos city.

Gusts of up to 66 mph ripped a rancher off his feet when he blacked out his Angostura home to stop embers blowing through nests at a mile from the blaze.

He was in shock when a blaze that began 20 miles away took off out of control when a fire less than 5 miles away, controlled by NSW Forest Service, went out fire on April 6.

A few miles down the road in Tres Ritos personnel of the ski resort emptied a storage area and were preparing for a fire which they expected to be coming.

“They’ve been fighting it for a month in wilderness, they can’t stop it,” said Greg Payne, equipment maintenance director at Sipapu Ski Resort two kms down the valley.

Gila National Forest

The Gila National Forest is a protected national forest in New Mexico in the southwestern part of the United States established in 1905. It covers approximately 2,710,659 acres of public land, (wikipedia)