Air quality concerns arise as New Mexico wildfires spread

Residents in New Mexico are being urged to be mindful of air quality safety because of the spread of wildfires throughout the state.

There are five large wildfires burning in New Mexico, which have resulted in evacuations throughout the impacted areas.
The McBride Fire in southern New Mexico had consumed 6,167 acres as of Friday morning and has resulted in two deaths. The blaze has destroyed more than 200 primary structures since it began on April 12 in Ruidoso, according to the website of New Mexico Fire Information, an interagency resource with information from federal and state agencies.
    The largest of the fires, the Hermits Peak Fire in northeast New Mexico, started on April 6 and burned over 7,081 acres. It is 33% contained.
      Officials are encouraging residents to learn about available resources and ways to maintain air quality safety, such as “setting home air conditioning units to ‘recirculate’ during fire events” to deter smoke from entering, according to a media release issued Friday by the New Mexico Department of Health.
        “Air quality conditions exist that may be harmful to the health of at-risk populations and can create unsafe driving conditions in areas directly impacted by the fires,” said Dr. David R. Scrase, acting cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Health. “Smoke exposure can aggravate conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease, or cardiovascular disease.”
        Air quality levels in New Mexico can be tracked via the New Mexico Environment Department’s website.
          Most of the state was under a red flag warning — when warm temperatures, very low humidity and stronger winds are expected to combine to produce an increased risk of fire danger — on Friday.
          On Wednesday, the remains of two people were found in a home that burned a day earlier in Ruidoso, a village of more than 7,000 people roughly a 180-mile drive southeast of Albuquerque, state police said.
            Firefighters had fought flames at the home Tuesday afternoon, and that evening village police “received information about an elderly couple who attempted to evacuate the McBride Fire but were unaccounted for by family members,” state police said.
            Police did not say whether the two people who died were the couple reported missing. The deaths are under investigation, and the state medical investigator’s office was working to identify the victims, authorities said.

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