A huge wildfire has scorched an area of New Mexico the size of more than half of New York City, as hundreds of people have been told to evacuate their homes.
The blaze, dubbed the Calf Canyon Wildfire, has burned more than 103,000 acres as of Monday morning, according to US Forest Service officials in New Mexico.
Although the fire was 30% contained it is expected to keep growing, putting it on track to possibly be one of the largest and most destructive in the state’s recorded history.
The Calf Canyon fire is the largest active wildfire in the US and is the most destructive of a dozen blazes in the south west of the country, that scientists say are more widespread and arriving earlier this year due to climate change.
Burning since 6 April, the fire has destroyed hundreds of properties and forced the evacuation of dozens of settlements in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, but has yet to claim a life.
Forecasters issued a red flag warning, signalling that fires could start and spread easily, for the area where winds of 50 miles per hour and humidity as low as 5% were expected through Monday.
Flames could be seen from Las Vegas, which is just a couple of miles away.
Several hundred households in the northwestern corner of the city were told to evacuate immediately on Monday morning, San Miguel County said in an alert.
“This emerging situation remains extremely serious and refusal to evacuate could be a fatal decision,” the county said.
Wildfires have become a year-round threat in the drought-stricken west and they are moving faster and burning hotter than ever due to climate change, scientists and fire experts say.
In the last five years, California has experienced the eight largest wildfires in state history, while Colorado saw a destructive blaze tear through suburban neighbourhoods last December.
Las Vegas is also home to New Mexico Highlands University and one of the most populated stops along Interstate 25 before the Colorado state line.
More than 3,100 firefighters and support personnel are fighting fires across the US, with about one-third trying to prevent the blaze in New Mexico from spreading.
More than 4,400 square miles have burned across the US so far this year.