Two lightning-sparked fires that merged to form an erratic blaze in the Gila National Forrest have become the largest wildfire in the history of New Mexico.
Officials confirmed Wednesday that the Gila fire grew nearly 20,000 acres in one day, swallowing up more than 170,000 acres. Besides shattering the state's record of approximately 157,000 acres blackened last year, the Gila fire is now the largest currently burning in the nation.
The fire is not yet contained.
Approximately 1,200 firefighters and 12 helicopters from around the state are working to extinguish the blaze, fire officer Jerry Perry told the media. Their efforts are being hindered by low humidity and shifting winds.
We still facing adverse weather conditions that are posing a challenge, Perry told the Associated Press. We're doing a lot of burnout operations and yesterday we had to deal with a lot of spot fires.
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The two lightning-sparked fires became one last week. The first was spotted May 9 and the other May 16. They have since damaged a dozen cabins and seven small outbuildings, according to MSNBC. Nearby towns are still evacuated.
Officials believe the fire could grow because of the persistent drought in the region.