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14 wildfires in Arizona, New Mexico create hazy skies to Southwest Colorado

Largest blaze is listed at 65,825 acres
Seven fires burning in Arizona and seven others in New Mexico are bringing smoke into Southwest Coloroado. (Durango Herald file)

The thin haze hanging over the Animas Valley on Tuesday morning was smoke coming from wildfires burning in Arizona and New Mexico.

“It is hazy, the fire season has begun. This smoke is blowing in from the south,” said Esther Godson, spokeswoman with the San Juan National Forest.

According to the AirNow Fire and Smoke Map, seven fires are burning in Arizona and seven more are burning in New Mexico.

The largest fire in Arizona is the Mescal Fire listed at 65,825 acres and at 23% contained. It is burning northeast of Tucson.

The Telegraph Fire, just west of the Mescal Fire, is listed at 61,211 acres and no containment estimate has been given.

Godson said most of the smoke coming into Southwest Colorado is coming from the Mescal and Telegraph blazes in Arizona.

The smoke from these fires is heaviest in central New Mexico, according to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

The Slate Fire, burning on 1,400 acres 23 miles northwest of Flagstaff, is the closest Arizona blaze to Southwest Colorado. No containment estimate has been given for the Slate Fire.

The Kaibab National Forest South Zone Prescribed Burn is also occurring on 350 acres in the Grand Canyon National Park. The prescribed burn is burning slash piles.

The largest wildfire in New Mexico is the Johnson Fire, burning at 43,792 acres with no containment estimate given. It is burning in southwest New Mexico, 11 miles west of the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

The closest fires to Southwest Colorado in New Mexico are the Cuervito Fire and the Wolf Draw Fire.

The Cuervito Fire is listed at 1,612 acres and is at 95% containment. It is burning southeast of Santa Fe.

The Wolf Draw Fire is burning 30 miles north of Cuba in the Santa Fe National Forest. It is listed at 712 acres and 75% containment.

Several lightning-caused fires were burning on public lands in Southwest Colorado, including the 13-acre South Fork Fire. The Beavertail Fire in Mesa County was listed at 463 acres and was 90% contained.

Red flag warning is in effect

A red flag warning remained in effect for most of Montezuma County and southern La Plata County until midnight Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Winds were expected to reach up to 20 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph. Relative humidity was 5% to 10%.

A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warmer temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.

The red flag warning covered the southern half of La Plata County and all but the northeastern corner of Montezuma County.

parmijo@durangoherald.com

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