A Blazing West

Firefighters are battling multiple wildfires as they blaze through large areas of the West

Jun 13, 2012 | By Abby Lieberman

Some progress has been made in stopping at least 18 wildfires threatening parts of nine western states including New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Wyoming. Thousands of acres have been burned and hundreds of people have been forced to leave their homes as the rain-parched land has erupted in flames.

Flames and smoke threaten homes near Laporte, Colorado.
Flames and smoke threaten homes near Laporte, Colorado.

In New Mexico, a once small forest fire has grown to 56 square-miles. At least 224 homes and other buildings have been damaged or destroyed in the village of Ruidoso.

“It’s truly heartbreaking to see the damage done to this beautiful part of the country,” says, New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez.

In Northern Colorado, the blaze has reached 68 square-miles and has so far cost $3 million to fight. Over 100 homes and structures have been destroyed and one person has died. Hundreds of families have had to flee their homes as the fire continues to burn.

But the firefighters have been making some progress. In Colorado close to 700 people are battling the blaze—both on the ground and in the air as aircrafts pour water on the flames. As of Wednesday morning, the fire is 10% contained.

In New Mexico, there are nearly 1,000 firefighters and more than 200 National Guards trying to control the blaze. As of Wednesday morning, that fire is 35% contained.

A Dangerous Mix

Wildfires are part of the natural cycle of forests. They help clear dead trees, allowing new trees to grow in place of the old ones. In Colorado and New Mexico, the mix of dry, hot and windy weather has caused these wildfires to burn out of control.

The thousands of inhabitants who call the area their home are not without help. President Barack Obama said that the federal government was ready and willing to provide the much needed personnel, equipment and emergency grants for the nine states fighting the fires.

The people who live in the beautiful and peaceful areas currently burning know that they always risk leaving their home due to wildfires. Denise Haines and her family quickly left their mountain farm and headed for safety.

“You move out east, you got tornadoes,” Haines says. “You live in the mountains, you got the fires.”