“We’re expecting above-average temperatures, and that means generally unstable conditions for fires,” Todd Shoemake, meteorologist at the National Weather Service (NWS) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, told CNN. “So when you start seeing fire growth, it can often become quite explosive and gain strength and heat very quickly.”
The cities of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Roswell, New Mexico all have the potential to hit or break record highs this weekend and early next week, making wildfire weather conditions at Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak even worse.
“High temperatures are difficult for our firefighters,” said Isaac Sanchez, CalFire’s battalion communications chief. “Just existing under these conditions is more difficult. Our ability to stay on fire and the stamina of our firefighters are all compromised.
“When it occurs this early in May, it takes time to acclimate. But we have to be ready to fight fires at all times.”
Other factors also play a role, including very low humidity and very gusty winds. In Santa Barbara, California, temperatures on Friday are expected to be at least 10 degrees above normal, with winds gusting between 30 and 40 miles per hour, in addition to humidity below 25 percent.
“High temperatures during the day and lower humidity mean the fuel will react faster and more readily,” Sanchez told CNN. “It creates a more receptive fuel bed.”
Essentially, the combination of heat and low humidity creates a more hospitable environment for fires to grow.
Hot temperatures will continue well into next week when winds pick up again, making the fire risk even worse.
Any improvement in wind conditions or humidity will be extremely helpful to firefighters hoping to improve firefighting over the next week.
But it’s not just the desert Southwest that will experience record heat; Temperatures are beginning to rise over the weekend in many Gulf Coast states, which have so far been largely spared the worst of the heat.
Heat spreads across southern US
From Arizona to Louisiana, more than a dozen cities are expected to break record temperatures this weekend. From Phoenix to Amarillo, Texas, those records are expected to be in the triple digits.
However, this heatwave will continue to expand and expand into the week ahead. Some areas of Texas could break daily records for high temperatures any day for at least the next seven days.
Starting Sunday, high temperatures will soar to as high as 100 degrees in Roswell, New Mexico, and Midland and Odessa, Texas, and will remain there through at least Thursday of next week.
For much of East Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, not only does the temperature itself matter, but also the length of time that the heat lasts.
Anyone who is outside this weekend must take special precautions.
“We have very dry conditions expected through the weekend with very low humidity,” Shoemake told CNN. “So when you combine the heat with these very dry conditions, dehydration can become a problem really quickly. And when you’re outside, whether you’re working or exercising, take lots of frequent breaks.”