Editor's Note: This article originally said the Coconut Fire was in Waxahachie instead of Wichita Falls. The story has been corrected and we regret the error.
More than 5,000 firefighters battled multiple wildland blazes in dry, windy weather across the Southwest on Thursday, including a fire that has destroyed dozens of structures in Texas and another that’s picking up steam again in New Mexico.
Evacuation orders remained in place Thursday for residents near the wildfires in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico.
According to the Texas Wildfire Incident Response System, there are 22 active wildfires in the Lone Star State that have consumed more than 66 square miles or 42,000 acres.
MESQUITE HEAT WILDFIRE
In Texas, the Texas A&M Forestry Service said the fire that has burned dozens of homes was still only 5% contained Thursday afternoon. By Friday morning, containment had jumped to 25% after charring more than 15 square miles (9,600 acres) of juniper and mesquite brush 18 miles southwest of Abilene.
News from around the state of Texas.
That fire had prompted the evacuation of the historic town of Buffalo Gap on Wednesday. Forestry Service spokesman Stuart Morris said the town had reopened Thursday, but a wind shift expected later Thursday could pose a new threat.
No injuries had been reported as of Thursday afternoon, but Morris said 27 structures had been destroyed. It wasn’t immediately clear how many of them were residences.
All of West Texas was under a red flag wildfire danger warning Thursday, with an underlying drought and critically to extremely dry vegetation combining with 100-degree temperatures Fahrenheit and gusty winds.
However, the Forestry Service said a new weather pattern by the weekend is expected to usher in cooler temperatures and moisture that could limit the potential for wildfire activity on Saturday and Sunday.
The Coconut Fire continues to burn west of Wichita Falls Friday. So far, the Coconut Fire has burned more than 40 square miles (26,000 acres) and is 45% contained, according to the Texa A&M Forest Service.
Baylor County Emergency Management on Thursday shared a video of a fire tornado spawned in the Coconut Fire. That video is below.
ACTIVE WILDFIRES IN MULTIPLE STATES
Wildfires have broken out this spring earlier than usual across multiple states in the western U.S., where climate change and an enduring drought are fanning the frequency and intensity of forest and grassland fires.
Dangerous fire weather involving gusty winds, high temperatures and extremely low humidity was predicted to continue through Friday — especially in New Mexico, where the largest U.S. wildfire burned for more than a month and the governor expects the number of structures destroyed will exceed 1,000.
More than 2,100 fire personnel with fighting that blaze, which has burned more than 473 square miles of timber and brush in a region east of Santa Fe and south of Taos. Only about one-third of the fire’s perimeter is estimated contained.
With winds gusting up to 40 mph, red flag warnings signaling extreme wildfire danger were in effect until 10 p.m. — much later into the night than is typical. Gusts closer to 50 mph were expected on Friday, said the wildfire’s incident meteorologist, Bladen Breitreiter.